Our bodies change as we age, and our health care needs change, too. Aging patients often find themselves living with several complex health conditions that can be difficult to manage. Sometimes treatment for one condition might even make another one worse, and some patients struggle to keep track of all of their medications.
If you or a loved one are in that situation, a geriatrician might be able to help. These specialist doctors help seniors maintain their well-being and independence as they age.
What type of doctor is best for elderly patients?
A geriatric doctor, also called a geriatrician, is trained to provide medical care to people who are aging. That’s right, some doctors specialize in treating seniors. Not only are geriatricians versed in aging-related ailments, but they are trained to consider your needs, with a focus on maintaining your well-being, independence and quality of life.
Most geriatricians complete a primary care residency in family medicine or internal medicine, followed by a year or two of training specifically with older patients, according to the American Geriatrics Society.
Geriatricians often work as part of a team with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers and mental health professionals to help their patients manage multiple or complex medical conditions. This can include coordinating care with specialists, such as cardiologists, pulmonologists and neurologists.
Geriatricians pay special attention to drug side effects and interactions and can help you prioritize your medications. They also may make home visits and recommend changes to improve your nutrition, mobility and safety.
Geriatric doctors recognize the importance of taking time to get to know you and the value of including your caregivers and family members in appointments so your needs can be met.
At what age should you see a geriatrician?
Geriatricians typically treat patients who are in their 60s or older. However, a geriatric doctor can be a valuable resource even for younger patients. For example, if you have multiple medical conditions, are taking multiple medications and find that treatment for one condition worsens another one, you might want to see a geriatrician. A specialist in geriatrics also can help younger patients who have frail health or a disease associated with aging, such as dementia, osteoporosis or incontinence.
What is a geriatric assessment?
A geriatric assessment is an exam that gives your doctor a picture of your physical, mental and emotional health, as well as your living conditions, family situation and other factors that influence your quality of life.
Does Medicare cover geriatric assessments?
Medicare covers some assessments related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Under Medicare Part B, you can have a free annual wellness visit, during which your doctor may give you a cognitive assessment.
Part B also will cover a separate visit with your doctor or a specialist to review your cognitive function, establish or confirm a diagnosis and create a care plan. After you meet your Part B deductible, you pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for this type of visit.
Having trouble learning new things, difficulty concentrating, trouble managing finances or struggling to make everyday decisions can be signs of cognitive impairment. During a Medicare-covered cognitive assessment, your doctor may:
- Perform an exam and review your medical history and medications.
- Create a care plan.
- Help you develop or update your advance-care plan.
- Refer you to a specialist.
- Tell you about rehabilitation services, adult day health programs and other community resources.
How can I find a geriatric doctor near me who accepts Medicare patients?
NewPrimaryCare.com can help you find a quality primary care doctor who specializes in caring for geriatric patients. Our partner providers practice value-based care, meaning Medicare rewards them for helping their patients get better. They have time to learn about you and your unique needs because they’re not worried about how many patients are coming through their office.
With a value-based care doctor you can expect quicker appointment scheduling, shorter waits at the doctor’s office and a meaningful connection with your physician who can help you maintain your well-being and independence.
Use our Find Your Doctor tool to search for and compare value-based care providers near you.