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Senior Citizen's Guide

What is a Geriatrician?

There is no way to avoid aging, but there is a way to slow down its process. The answer doesn't come in the products you see advertised on television but from how you feel inside. There's an old saying that states, "You are only as old as you feel." Getting older doesn't have to be something you dread. Learn to welcome the changes age brings with the help of a geriatrician.

A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in care for people 65 and older. Just as a pediatrician tends to the needs of a child, a geriatrician cares for the special needs of changing seniors. Geriatricians approach each patient's needs individually, and possess the knowledge and expertise needed to accommodate seniors.

They are typically board certified in internal medicine and have additional training in areas pertaining to elder care. They can better address issues such as memory loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility and Alzheimer's Disease. Clearly, geriatrics includes more than treating physical problems; it means recognizing how health conditions affect seniors socially and emotionally, and vice versa.

Seniors often associate age with disease. Yet, aging does not cause diseases. While many seniors believe that the reason they are not feeling well is because they are getting older, this is not always the case. The problems they are experiencing may be related to an illness or injury not at all caused by age. This is why it is important to seek the helpful knowledge of a geriatrician.

This type of physician practice far exceeds simply diagnosing a physical problem and treating it. Geriatricians collect information about patients' lifestyles, community, family, and their entire medical history.

"Geriatrics is about treating the whole person," says Martin Leicht, MD, geriatrician at Jeanes Hospital, Philadelphia. According to Dr. Leicht, geriatrics requires that individuals be assessed and evaluated in every aspect so they can be treated properly. A patient's treatment is adjusted to physical, social and emotional needs. "Our goal is to maximize the patient's ability to be as independent as possible," says Dr. Leicht.

Time is very crucial in geriatrics because small changes can make big differences. "We address preventive issues as well," explains Dr. Leicht. Geriatricians can discuss with patients how to slow down the aging process by finding the right exercise programs or lifestyles. "Geriatric practice is about helping patients make the transitions to later life as easy and meaningful as possible," he says.

Communication also plays a major role in geriatrics. Seniors should know that they can voice their opinions and concerns and that they will be heard. Geriatricians and their office staffs are frequently challenged with communicating effective ways to help patients remember to take their medications and engage in safe lifestyles and preventive wellness. Families of the elderly are often involved in the communication process so they are aware of what they can do to help.

Age is nothing but a number. You don't have to let aging get the best of you anymore. Seeking the help of a geriatrician is the first step in accommodating the changes aging brings.

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