In recent weeks, we have received numerous inquiries regarding the role of geriatricians in providing care for the elderly and the concept of holistic health. It is in this context that I am writing this piece to shed light on the importance of geriatric medicine and its holistic approach to senior healthcare.
A geriatrician (specialist for the diseases of senior citizens) plays a crucial role in the healthcare of senior citizens, offering specialised care and addressing the unique needs and challenges associated with ageing. Here are some key reasons why seniors should consider seeking care from a geriatrician:
Expertise in Ageing
Geriatricians are medical doctors with specialised training in geriatric medicine. They possess in-depth knowledge and understanding of the physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that occur with ageing. This expertise enables them to provide tailored and effective care for seniors.
Geriatricians take a holistic approach to healthcare, considering the overall well-being of seniors. They recognise that ageing involves multiple dimensions, including physical, mental, social, and emotional aspects. By addressing these interconnected factors, geriatricians promote comprehensive and patient-centred care.
Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment
Geriatricians perform comprehensive geriatric assessments, which involve a thorough evaluation of various aspects of a senior’s health. This assessment encompasses physical health, cognitive function, mental health, functional abilities, social support, medication review, and identifying potential risks or challenges. This comprehensive approach allows for early detection, prevention, and management of age-related conditions.
Many seniors experience multiple chronic conditions and complex health issues. Geriatricians are skilled in managing multimorbidity, coordinating care across different specialties, and optimising treatment plans to address the specific needs and interactions of various conditions. They help seniors navigate through the complexities of managing multiple health conditions.
Geriatricians have expertise in medication management for seniors. They assess the appropriateness and potential interactions of medications, reducing the risk of adverse drug effects and optimising the medication regimen. This helps to prevent medication-related complications and improves overall safety and efficacy of treatment. This also reduces polypharmacy and takes in to consideration drug-drug interaction.
Fall Prevention and Mobility
Geriatricians recognise the increased risk of falls and mobility issues among seniors. They assess balance, gait, and strength, and provide personalised strategies and interventions to prevent falls and maintain mobility. This includes recommendations for exercise, assistive devices, environmental modifications, and addressing underlying factors contributing to falls.
Geriatricians have a specialised focus on cognitive health and memory disorders commonly associated with ageing, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They conduct cognitive assessments, diagnose cognitive disorders, and provide support and management strategies to enhance cognitive function, maximise independence, and improve quality of life.
Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Geriatricians are well-versed in providing palliative and end-of-life care for seniors with advanced illnesses. They prioritise the comfort, dignity, and quality of life for patients and their families, offering guidance, support, and symptom management throughout the journey.
Seeking care from a geriatrician offers several benefits for seniors, including personalised and specialised attention, a comprehensive approach to health, improved management of chronic conditions, optimised medication regimens, fall prevention strategies, cognitive health support, and compassionate end-of-life care. By collaborating with a geriatrician, seniors can receive the specific care they need to thrive, maintain their independence, and enjoy a higher quality of life throughout their ageing journey.
What is Holistic Health for Seniors?
Holistic health, in the context of geriatric medicine, refers to a comprehensive approach that considers the overall well-being of senior citizens. It recognizes that health is not solely determined by physical factors but is also influenced by mental, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions. A geriatrician, as a provider of holistic health, focuses on addressing all these aspects to promote optimal well-being and quality of life in seniors.
Here are some key elements of holistic health in geriatric care:
Geriatricians assess and manage the physical health of seniors, addressing age-related conditions, chronic diseases, and functional limitations. The chronic diseases include high blood pressure, diabetes, hypothyroidism, dementia, urinary problems, prostate enlargement, bone and joint pains, intestinal problems etc. They emphasise preventive care, promote healthy lifestyle choices, and provide medical interventions to optimise physical well-being.
Mental and Cognitive Health
Geriatricians recognize the importance of mental and cognitive health in seniors. They assess cognitive function, screen for cognitive impairments such as dementia, and provide appropriate interventions and support to manage cognitive changes effectively. They can also help in addressing mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression.
Emotional and Psychosocial Well-being
Geriatricians acknowledge the impact of emotional and psychosocial factors on the overall health of seniors. They provide emotional support, address concerns related to ageing, loss, and transitions, and promote social engagement and community involvement. They can also provide counselling or therapy to enhance emotional well-being. They recognise the physical symptoms of elder abuse (bad treatment of elders by their care givers) and try to address that as well.
Social Support and Resources
Geriatricians recognize the importance of social connections and support networks for seniors. They assess the social support available to the individual and may provide referrals to community resources, support groups, or services that can enhance social well-being and prevent isolation.
Geriatricians acknowledge the significance of spiritual beliefs and practices in the lives of seniors. They respect and support individual spiritual needs and may incorporate spiritual care as part of the holistic approach, ensuring that seniors’ spiritual well-being is considered in their healthcare plan.
In addition to the holistic approach, geriatricians also emphasise the importance of vaccination in the elderly population. Vaccinations play a vital role in preventing infectious diseases and their complications, which can be particularly severe for seniors with weakened immune systems.
Geriatricians stay updated on the recommended vaccines for seniors, including influenza (flu), pneumococcal (pneumonia), shingles, and others. They assess the vaccination history of each individual and ensure that seniors receive appropriate vaccinations based on their age, health conditions, and risk factors. By promoting vaccination, geriatricians help protect seniors from vaccine-preventable diseases, reduce the risk of complications, and improve their overall health and well-being.
Holistic health in geriatric care involves a comprehensive approach that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of seniors’ well-being. Geriatricians, as providers of holistic health, prioritise preventive care, personalised interventions, and multidimensional support to optimise health and enhance the quality of life for seniors. By incorporating vaccination as a key component, geriatricians further safeguard the health of seniors and protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK