If you've made it to the Golden Years, then you already know how much your body has changed since you were twenty-two. Guess what? It's OK. That's how it's supposed to be. It's the circle of life, after all.
That said, because your body has changed, it deserves a medical practitioner who has a thorough understanding of these changes: what they mean today and what they could mean tomorrow. And that's where a geriatric doctor comes in.
We talked about the many benefits of seeing a geriatric physician in this blog post. Now, let's talk about what you can expect when you work with one.
Expect to be heard.
This should be true when you visit any doctor.
Unfortunately, with traditional healthcare in this country, primary care physicians often carry such a cumbersome patient load (we're talking in the thousands) that it's impossible to have a constructive conversation with any patient—young or old. Why? There just isn't enough time.
Doctors specializing in geriatrics, however, know that their patients require more time. There's a much longer medical history to discuss, for one thing. There are likely to be more questions as well, due to chronic and acute conditions alike. If the patient's spouse or children accompany him or her on the appointment, this involves further conversation. Plus, certain sensitive topics, such as end-of-life decisions, require plenty of time to discuss.
When you or a loved one opts to see a geriatric doctor, you can expect the doctor to carve out time so that you will be heard. This is a good thing, since the patient should be actively involved in any conversation regarding his or her care. Communication is critical in any relationship, and a patient-doctor relationship is no exception.
Expect someone tuned into the needs and conditions affecting seniors.
Let's face it: when you're twenty-five, you don't need typically need to worry about ailments like arthritis, urinary incontinence, angina, osteoporosis, stroke, tremors, or dementia.
The older we get, however, the more we become at-risk for these and other conditions. Your primary care physician who treated you while you were in your twenties, thirties, and even forties would certainly have knowledge of conditions affecting the elderly. But that expertise might be more theoretical, rather than practical, since the bulk of his or her patients probably don't suffer from arthritis or dementia, for example (and yes, there are certainly exceptions).
A geriatric doctor, by virtue of the population he or she treats, has a much deeper understanding of the conditions afflicting this demographic. Just as a child "graduates" from working with a pediatrician, seniors should graduate from primary care physicians to geriatric doctors. Then, you can rest assured you're working with someone who is up-to-date on the issues that are most likely to affect you.
Expect compassion and respect.
Again, anyone who visits a doctor should expect these two things, but even more so once you've reached your sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties. You've witnessed a lot in your life, both good and bad, and you've endured a lot as well. You deserve much credit, and respect.
Unfortunately, Western cultures don't always see it that way. An interesting article in The Huffington Post rightly points out "[i]n Western cultures -- where youth is fetishized and the elderly are commonly removed from the community and relegated to hospitals and nursing homes -- aging can become a shameful experience." The article then goes on to list seven cultures that do right by their seniors.
Luckily, in geriatrics, even in this country, you're working with people who truly "get" seniors. Geriatric physicians appreciate and celebrate their patients while showing them the compassion and respect they deserve.
At TAM, we're proud to offer geriatrics as one of our specialties. Thanks to our concierge model of medicine, our geriatric doctors have even more time and resources to devote to you or your loved ones. And we believe that's a good thing. Learn more here.