As the population in the United States and elsewhere in the world ages, there is an ever-greater emphasis on the importance of thoughtful and pragmatic elder care. This field is called geriatric medicine, or geriatrics. When you or a loved one reaches a stage at which health and age begin to impede upon certain aspects of daily life, contact Huntington Lifestyle Partners in Pasadena, CA to optimize health as you age.
What Is Geriatric Medicine?
In the United States, all geriatricians are primary care physicians, meaning they are fully qualified to deal with a broad range of run-of-the-mill health issues. The difference between a geriatrician and other primary care physicians is the emphasis geriatricians place on how aging interacts with disease and disability in ways that compromise an elderly person’s quality of life. In this way, the field is deeply pragmatic.
It’s important to note there is no set age at which any particular person should or must be referred to a geriatrician. Instead, the decision is made on a case-by-case basis by physicians in conversation with their patients. Elderly or aging people who are finding that age is having a negative impact on other aspects of health and daily living should speak with their physician about a referral to a geriatrician.
The Four Giants of Geriatrics
The overwhelming majority of geriatrics patients in the United States suffer from at least one of the so-called “geriatric giants:” immobility, instability, incontinence, and impaired intellect. Each of these factors can be further complicated by even the mildest of medical issues and lead to problems that exacerbate the impact of the pre-existing issue.
As the body ages, muscle tissue is lost, joints grow infirm, and basic movement becomes an obstacle to daily life. Furthermore, an elderly person with a mild fever is more likely to experience a further loss of coordination than the average patient, which in turn may lead to a fall which could further impair mobility. Obviously, this cycle can take a devastating physical and psychological toll.
Geriatric medicine can stop, or at least forestall, the impact of this cycle by treating mild health issues efficiently and putting their patients on dietary and exercise regimes to combat the impact of aging on mobility.
When elderly or aging people fail to find a solution to declining mobility, they are often increasingly isolated, which can lead to psychological instability. Therefore, one of a geriatrician’s most important responsibilities is to monitor the mental health and social engagement of their patients. In the event of isolation, geriatricians can often work in close contact with charitable organizations and social workers to facilitate increased social interaction.
One the most frustrating, and unfortunately most common, issues elderly and aging people face is incontinence. Aside from being somewhat embarrassing, incontinence severely threatens an elderly person’s capability and confidence to complete basic activities within their communities and pursue fulfilling social lives.
This does not have to be the case. While some portion of renal impairment (decreased kidney function) is inevitable, the decline can be properly managed by a geriatrician with an eye toward diet, exercise, and carefully managed combinations of medicine.
It’s no secret many elderly people contend with some form of intellectual decline later in life. This could be anything from the inability to remember lunch dates with the diligence of years past to serious cases of mental illness. Declining intellectual capacity often has a debilitating impact on mobility and social engagement which further compromises well-being.
Geriatricians are well-positioned to find workable, tailor-made solutions to these types of issues by prescribing relevant medications and suggesting a series of intellectual tasks and/or exercises designed to optimize mental agility later in life.
The Increased Complexity of Geriatric Medicine
As geriatric physicians deal with the “geriatric giants,” they are tasked with managing the nature of the aging body alongside other health issues. This practice is a challenging one because the aging body is far different from that of a young or middle-aged adult. Aging bodies are often characterized by the reserves remaining in vital organs which correspond to complex constellations of plausible health concerns.
Perhaps the most sensitive issue in geriatric medicine is the potential consequences of polypharmacy (taking multiple medications at the same time) as so many older people are forced to manage multiple health problems simultaneously. This is a particularly onerous challenge in reference to older people with kidney and/or liver problems as both of those organs are instrumental in processing medication.
Self-Care and Daily Living
A plurality of older Americans say living at home, independently, is a priority as they age. As such, geriatric medicine focuses on pragmatic solutions that enable seniors to care for themselves at home through functional mobility, mental stability, and sufficient intellectual agility to navigate the minor problems commensurate with day-to-day life in one’s own home.
Numerous studies have shown seniors with a degree of independence and capability are far more satisfied with their lives for greater durations within the aging process. This being the case, practical concerns regarding life at home often outweigh the importance of achieving an unattainable ideal state of health, but with the help of Geriatric Medicine we can work this out.
Like so many other medical fields, geriatrics has a greater positive impact on patients who seek treatment before it is absolutely necessary. If you or a loved one is having health problems that interact negatively with the complexities of aging, contact Huntington Lifestyle Partners in Pasadena, CA today to learn more.