Medical treatment of the elderly population by geriatricians
includes everything from herbal supplements to organ transplants, all to
attempt to extend the lifespan and increase the quality of life. As
Ponce de Leon allegedly found out nearly 500 years ago, there exists no
fountain of youth. The modern version of the story involves people
living longer lives as a result of geriatric medicine.
Problems with health can target young and old alike, but there is
considerable study given to geriatric medicine, which focuses on the
care of older people. There is no set age when a patient is handed over
to a different doctor for treatment of ailments related to the elderly.
This typically happens gradually as physical shortcomings present
themselves through the normal process of aging. There is, however, a
difference between aging and disease, and geriatric medicine can focus
There are five areas of medicine that most frequently occur with
older patients. These are known as the “geriatric giants”, and are
infection, incontinence, instability, immobility and impaired cognition.
While any one of these can affect a child or adult, older people are
Geriatric medicine broke off from internal medicine as a
specialty quite some time ago. Nowadays, doctors are becoming even more
specialized, with fields of study as narrow as geriatric rheumatology or
geriatric nephrology. More often, technology plays a big factor in
geriatric medicine. New technologies allow for a greater understanding
of the complex inter-workings of a person’s main systems, like
respiratory and cardiovascular. As the vast population of baby boomers
gets older, new technology allows for greater remote monitoring of the
elderly as well.
The field of geriatric medicine has its own unique set of
problems due to diseases with declining brain functions, such as
Alzheimer’s disease, or general dementia. This involves dealing with
issues relating to patients not being able to make decisions for
themselves. A geriatric doctor must be familiar with legal topics like
advance directives, living wills and powers of attorney. He or she must
also be familiar with state and federal laws dealing with the care of
one person at the direction of another.
Many senior adults experience what is known as polypharmacy,
where many medicines are prescribed at one time, either by accident or
on purpose. With the vast array of side effects that can arise from any
one prescription, it is easy to see how complicated it can be when
dealing with several. Many drugs interact with others and can produce
dangerous side effects. Geriatric specialists can help monitor patients.