The Importance of Geriatric Primary Care

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Woman geriatric primary care doctor smiling in her office
April 25, 2024

According to a study conducted in 2023, about 33% of Americans do not have primary care services, and 40% are delaying primary care due to costs [1]. A lack of access to primary care is detrimental to the overall health of individuals, but seniors are particularly affected by this gap. Geriatric primary care is endlessly important for older adults, as their overall health tends to decline with age. This is due to cellular regeneration gradually slowing as people get older, which increases the risk of chronic conditions and contracting illnesses due to a weakened immune system [2]. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of geriatric care and why all seniors should make sure to see a geriatric primary care physician.

What is Geriatric Care?

Geriatric health refers to the medical care and support specifically geared toward older adults, typically aged 65 and older. This form of senior primary care focuses mainly on managing health conditions that are common among older individuals, such as chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, and dementia. Geriatric care also addresses the unique challenges and needs of the senior population. 

Older adults have different needs compared to younger adults. For example, they likely have a higher number of preexisting conditions that must be addressed and managed from the very first visit to their geriatric primary care physicians. Seniors will also likely need more help coordinating with specialists for their specific conditions, and with medication management of multiple prescriptions. 

Geriatric care uses a holistic approach, focusing on the whole individual when providing support. This means that doctors in this field hold high regard for caring for a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as opposed to just helping the individual with physical ailments. 

What Do Geriatric Primary Care Doctors Do?[3]

As previously mentioned, geriatric doctors specialize in the unique health needs of older adults. They are professionally trained to manage the challenges that seniors face at a higher degree compared to younger adults. Geriatric doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent a wide variety of conditions that commonly affect seniors, administering check-ups, screenings, and vaccinations as needed. Because older adults typically take a higher number of medications than they once did when younger, geriatric doctors prioritize managing these medications and ensuring they do not cause any interactions, complications, or dangerous side effects. Geriatric primary care providers also help seniors by coordinating care between specialists in their main areas of risk, such as a dermatologist for skin conditions or a cardiologist for heart conditions. This reassures seniors that they are receiving the most comprehensive and integrative care possible, geared towards their individual needs. 

What is Geriatric Care in Primary Care?

Integrating geriatric care into primary care settings is vital for bringing specialized knowledge and expertise about a population of individuals whose lives can be changed by their care. Many unexpected variables can come into play when you are a senior, such as mysterious pains, mental health conditions, reactions to medications, or even the diagnosis of and management of chronic conditions. Geriatric care physicians are professionals in taking these unexpected, and often scary, variables and turning them into something manageable. By taking a collaborative approach, geriatric primary care providers work together to provide seniors with personalized and holistic care, with overall quality of life at the forefront of their goals. 

Why is Geriatric Medicine Important for Primary Care?

It is always better to catch a condition or ailment earlier rather than later. This is why preventative care is so vital in geriatric care—by working towards preventing a condition from forming and staying vigilant on screening if a concern has formed, the senior may be able to avoid developing the condition at all. Health decline is a large cause of weakened quality of life for seniors, so geriatric care providers hold high accountability in preventing as many health conditions from arising as possible [3]. Not only does this reduce the mental burden of one’s health dwindling, but it also helps seniors save money that they can use for retirement, resulting in less of a financial burden, as well. 

Why is Geriatric Care in High Demand?

Did you know that the death rate among older adults in America rose 22% between 2019 and 2023 [4]? Additionally, according to the CDC, over 78% of older adults aged 65 or older had at least one chronic condition [5]. These statistics could be drastically different if more seniors utilized geriatric care to combat chronic conditions and illnesses. There is a need for specialized care for the overall enhancement of one’s quality of life, and unfortunately, it cannot be done alone. Using the expertise of a geriatric care provider provides one with the support they need to live the healthiest and happiest life possible. 

When to See a Geriatric Care Physician

Knowing when it may be time to start receiving care from a geriatric doctor can be as simple as knowing and being able to identify the signs that may point to a decline in health. For example, signs like forgetfulness, difficulty organizing medications and taking them on time, or frequent falls can indicate that specialized support may be beneficial. Geriatric primary care physicians play a large role in preventative care by not only addressing the current health concerns of the individual but also being proactive in identifying and managing potential risks that may come up in the future. By closely monitoring both existing and potential conditions, they will ensure that you are in the healthiest place you can be. If you notice any signs that cause a red flag to appear in your mind, consider that a flashing indicator that it is time to reach out for support. 

Geriatric Primary Care for the Greater Good

The specific and unique concerns of older adults make geriatric care necessary for all seniors to access. By visiting a geriatric care physician in senior healthcare routinely, you are taking proactive steps to stay in charge of and passionate about your health. We commend this at Greater Good Health, and encourage you to reach out for more information and support!