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Q&A with a Geriatrician

Q. What is a Geriatrician?

A. Geriatricians are doctors trained in either Internal Medicine or Family Medicine who have spent at least one extra year training specifically to care for the needs of older adults.

Q. Why do I need a Geriatrician?

A. Geriatricians are experts in aging. We focus on the physical, mental health, and social issues that are unique to older adults. Most of our patients are over the age of 65, but age is not a requirement or a barrier for seeing a geriatrician. We are experts in complexity; most of our patients have multiple chronic diseases. As such, we often have longer appointments than most doctors and work with a team to care for our patients. We work hard to keep our patients as functional and independent as possible, and are experts in areas like falls prevention, cognitive changes/dementia, streamlining medication lists, physiologic changes in aging, and frailty.

Q. Aren’t Geriatricians doctors for old people?

A. Yes and no. Geriatricians are your partners in the medical community to fight ageism. A life well lived is constantly developing and changing. Just as pediatricians are experts at the developmental issues at the start of life, we geriatricians are the experts for those lucky enough to have made it past middle age and have the desire to continue to thrive. We are specialists in prevention of functional loss that many associate with “being old.” To do this well, we need to see you early—before you feel “old.” But don’t worry if you or a loved one didn’t see us before age related decline set in. When this time comes we are also experts in helping patients and families navigate the complexities of repeated hospitalizations and institutionalization in a respectful and dignified way that maximizes function and health.

Q. OK, you won me over. How do I find a Geriatrician?

A. There aren’t many geriatricians out there. To ensure your geriatrician has had rigorous training ask for a Board Certified Geriatrician. In the San Antonio area, veterans can contact the South Texas Veterans Health Care System at 210-617-5183 and ask to be seen in the Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) Clinic at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital. UT Health San Antonio also has geriatric clinics and may contact them at 210-450-910 or 210-450-9890.