Joan Koczor Maricopa
Joan Koczor

A geriatrician is an expert in the branch of medicine or social science dealing with the health care of elderly people by prevention and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults.

Geriatric physicians are primary-care doctors specially trained in the aging process. They evaluate your past illnesses and your current health condition to provide a healthy-aging plan that may include medical care, counseling and treatment.

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) suggests a geriatrician be consulted when:

  • Significant age-related frailty and impairment occur, which is more likely in older people who have multiple diseases, disabilities or mental problems.
  • The patient’s condition is causing the caregiving team, including family and friends, to feel significant stress and strain.

You may also be experiencing:

  • Confusion or memory loss.
  • Problems related to the use of multiple medications, including dizziness or falls.
  • Balance and walking problems.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Difficulty performing every day activities like bathing, dressing or eating.
  • Other age-related ailments.

It may be time to consult your primary-care doctor. He or she may determine if a qualified geriatrician is necessary and can make a referral.

As with any health care professional you may consider choosing for your medical needs, you need to ask specific questions.

  • What is the doctor’s background, including years of experience?
  • Are the office hours and policies acceptable?
  • Is the doctor covered under your health care plan?
  • Do you feel comfortable talking with the doctor?

Good communication is vital to taking care of your health as you age. Make quality, well-informed decisions about your health care. Talk to your family or caregiver about health problems you may be having. Discuss your concerns with your primary-care doctor. By reaching out to medical professionals you can achieve the best possible outcome and independence.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and is on the advisory board for Maricopa Seniors, Inc.

This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.