If your young son or daughter developed an illness, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the number programmed on their phone for the pediatrician they’ve carefully selected to oversee the health care needs of their children. Due to their specialized training, working with a trustworthy pediatrician ensures the best possible care.

Similarly, choosing a health care provider for senior loved ones who specializes in senior medical care needs is just as essential. However, sadly, the health care system as a whole has not placed a great focus on the unique health care needs of seniors. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains her alarm over this age-related health care gap, and how little professors in medical school are focused on senior health care.

In fact, reflecting on her own residency, she shares, “We literally did the same thing for forty-year-olds as we did for eighty-year-olds, and we’d treat all eighty-year-olds the same whether they’re dependent or independent, have limited life expectancy or complete life expectancy, and that just didn’t sit well with me.”

Thankfully, there is a new move to offer med students with additional geriatric training, including an emphasis on a holistic strategy to senior health care – evaluating the body as a whole. It is important for seniors to have a dependable geriatrician who can oversee and put together the results of the often multiple specialists a senior patient sees. In fact, providing additional education for anyone who comes in contact with seniors in a medical setting – from EMTs to hospital receptionists and triage workers to doctors and nurses – is essential to overcome ageism and ensure seniors obtain the level of care they need and deserve.

Furthermore, older adults and their family caregivers may want to research the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be confused with gerontologists, who concentrate on aging-related issues but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have completed a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have also passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.

According to the American Society of Geriatrics, there are approximately 7,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. They recommend assessing prospective geriatricians by asking the following questions:

  • What training and certification have you received?
  • Do you accept my insurance coverage?
  • Will you collaborate with all members of my healthcare team?
  • How is communication handled – email appointment reminders, texts about prescription refills, etc.?
  • What is your driving philosophy?

Visit the geriatrician for an introductory consultation, and assess additional details such as:

  • Is the office convenient to access?
  • Is there adequate parking?
  • Is the staff courteous and respectful?
  • Does the geriatrician speak directly to the older adult?
  • Are questions answered thoroughly?

Don’t dismiss your gut feelings. If any warning signs are noted, you may want to consider searching further to ensure the geriatrician selected is an individual you and the senior loved one are fully comfortable with.

At Charter Home Health, our caregivers are thoroughly trained in providing compassionate, specialized care for older adults in the comfort of home. Reach out to us any time at (215) 935-6321 for help or to learn more about our customized home health care in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.