What is Geriatric Medicine?
It is a specialty that focuses on the healthcare of elderly (Senior Citizen's: 60 years of age and above).
To promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in elderly.
The problem scenario:
- As per the latest census, population 60 years of age and above has hit an all-time high; increasing from 7.6 crores in 2001 to 10.3 crores in 2011 (35% increase).By 2021, population 60 years and above is expected to be 21% of total population
- The elderly pose an unique challenge due to their complex health problems.In addition to decreasing reserves, majority have multiple diseases like Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney failure, asthma, etc. co-existing in them at the same time. Many conditions present atypically or have different presentations in elderly age group compared to young. And to increase to their problems, many take typically more than 5 medicines every day for their health issues.
Who is a Geriatrician?
A Geriatrician is a physician who specialises in branch of medicine that deals with senior citizen's health issues.
What do Geriatricians do?
- They care for full spectrum of diseases seen in General/Internal Medicine; but with focus only on elderly individuals
- Geriatricians recognise the importance of maintaining functional independence in older people and focus on providing preventive interventions
- They are specifically trained in normal and abnormal physiologic and psychological changes associated with ageing and to recognise the differences in presentation of disease relative to normal ageing.
- Geriatricians provide a "Comprehensive Medical Care" to all the health issues in elderly; be it diabetes or blood pressure or bone and joint problems/arthritis or dementia or dizziness and balance problems and falls or Parkinson disease or urinary problems or any other problems.
- They also are experts in optimising/decreasing the number of medications taken by elderly and thereby prevent side effects.
Who should consult/see a Geriatrician?
Each and every individual 60 years and above is unique and has different degrees of health, illness and disability.
Ideally any individual above 60 years should visit a geriatrician, if they want to achieve Healthy Ageing and lead an Active Life. A Geriatrician should be consulted, if answer to any of the below questions is yes:
- Are you suffering from multiple or chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems and arthritis, parkinson's disease, heart disease, asthma, depression, or any other health issue?
- Are you taking 5 or more medicines everyday or having difficulty managing them?
- Are you forgetting things more often than in the past or suffering from Dementia?
- Are you having difficulty walking or feeling dizzy or had a fall in past 1 year?
- Are you having unintended weight loss or loss of appetite?
- Are you suffering from constipation or loose motions or altered bowel habits?
- Are you having any sort of urinary problems?
- Are you experiencing decrease in your functionality and increasing dependence on others for your daily activities?
- Are your family members or caregivers being overburdened in the care process of your or your known-to person?
Prevention is the best cure!!!
We all need to realise that, there is not much difference between small children and the elderly individuals. Both groups have various unmet needs that should to be addressed in an appropriate way. Just like paediatricians are specialised in taking care of children; a new specialty of doctors, trained in the ageing process and elderly care are the utmost need of the present time.
Geriatricians are not a threat to or in competition with any other specialities. Rather, our ultimate motto is to provide the best quality of care for our senior citizens, in collaboration.
There is lack of awareness of this relatively new specialty of Geriatric Medicine and even more so, scarcity of qualified Geriatricians in our country.
But, this situation will improve with time…