Geriatrics or Geriatric Medicine is a specialty that focuses on health care of elderly people. It aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults. There is no set age at which patients may be under the care of a geriatrician or geriatric physician, but, usually there are people over 60 years old.
Differences between adult and geriatric medicine
Geriatrics differs from standard adult medicine because it focuses on the unique needs of the elderly person. Geriatricians distinguish between diseases and the effects of normal aging. Geriatricians aim to treat diseases that are present and achieve healthy aging.
The decline in physiological reserve in organs makes the elderly develop some kinds of diseases and have more complications from mild problems (such as dehydration from a mild gastroenteritis).
Elderly people require specific attention to medications. Elderly people particularly are subjected to polypharmacy (taking multiple medications). Some elderly people have multiple medical disorders; some have self-prescribed many herbal medications and over-the-counter drugs.This polypharmacy may increase the risk of drug interations or adverse drug reactions.
The presentation of disease in elderly persons may be vague and non-specific, or it may include delirium or falls. Some elderly people may find it hard to describe their symptoms in words, especially if the disease is causing confusion, or if they have cognitive impairment. Delirium in the elderly may be caused by a minor problem such as constipation or by something as serious and life-threatening as a heart attack. Many of these problems are treatable, if the root cause can be discovered.
The so-called geriatric giants are the major categories of impairment that appear in elderly people, especially as they begin to fail. These include immobility, instability, incontinence and impaired intellect/memory.
Functional abilities, independence and quality of life issues are of great concern to geriatricians and their patients. Elderly people generally want to live independently as long as possible, which requires them to be able to engage in self-care and other activities of dayly living. A geriatrician may be able to provide information about elder care options, and refers people to home care services, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and hospice as appropriate.
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