What is Geriatrics?

A Q and A with Dr. Brooke Salzman, MD

Dr. Salzman is an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University, and the Director of the Geriatric Fellowship Program.

What is Geriatrics?
Geriatrics is the medical specialty that involves caring for older adults. “Older adult” has been historically defined as someone age 65 and older because Medicare begins at this age. As Americans are living longer, the population age 65 and older is expanding. The segment of the population age 85 and older is growing the fastest.

What is a Geriatrician?
A Geriatrician is a doctor who is specially trained to evaluate and manage the unique healthcare needs of older people. Geriatricians are board-certified internists or family physicians who have additional training and certification in geriatrics.

Do all older adults need a Geriatrician?
While the older population is incredibly diverse, many older adults have unique healthcare needs that can make their medical care more complicated. For example, more than half of adults age 65 and older have 3 or more medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, or memory loss. Because of their special training, geriatricians typically provide care for older people who have more complicated medical and social problems. These professionals evaluate the older person’s medical, social, emotional, and other needs. Geriatricians also focus on health concerns common in older people such as incontinence, falls, memory problems, and managing multiple chronic conditions and medications.

Is there anything different about a Geriatric approach to healthcare?
Geriatricians put great emphasis on evaluating and improving a person’s daily function and quality of life. Additionally, Geriatrics is known for its team approach to caring for older people and supporting their families and other caregivers. Geriatricians give special attention to patient preferences and values in care planning.

Do I need a Geriatrician?
A Geriatrician is recommended when:

  • An older person’s condition causes considerable impairment and frailty. These patients tend to be over the age of 75 and have a number of diseases and disabilities, including cognitive (memory) problems.
  • Family members and friends are under considerable stress as caregivers.
  • Family members and patients have trouble following complex treatments, or dealing with many healthcare professionals for their multiple health problems.

Are there Geriatricians at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital?
Jefferson Geriatrics is an outpatient, primary care practice devoted to the care of older adults that is staffed by certified Geriatricians. In addition to primary care services, Jefferson Geriatrics offers consultations through its Geriatric Assessment Program and Falls Prevention Program. These programs involve a team approach to evaluating and addressing the unique medical, social, emotional, and other needs of an older patient.

To make an appointment with a Jefferson Geriatrician, or to learn more call 1-800-JEFF-NOW.

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