Is a geriatrician right for you - Q & A with Dr. David Reuben

UCLA Health article

There is no right age to switch to a geriatric specialist, but Dr. David Reuben, chief of the division of geriatrics at UCLA Health, says there are guidelines that can help determine whether a geriatrician is right for you or your loved one.

What is a geriatrician? A geriatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and disability in older adults. Geriatric physicians focus on ensuring a healthy aging process for their patients.

Who needs a geriatrician? Not everyone needs to see a geriatrician. You should consider seeing one if you are in your late 60s or 70s and suffer from multiple medical conditions that have led to functional decline or increased physical frailty. Also, consider one if you have other conditions associated with aging, such as dementia, depression or mobility issues.

What should you expect from a geriatrician? Like pediatricians, we have specific skills that allow us to connect effectively with the population we treat. When we treat older people’s health issues, we also consider their mental health, social supports and other aspects of their daily lives.

As geriatricians, we are comfortable discussing end-of-life issues with patients and their families, including goals of care and advanced directives. We are also skilled at working with family members involved in an older patient’s care, something that is especially important if the patient is frail, sick or very old.

How else can older persons benefit from having geriatricians care for them? We are sensitive to the needs of patients who might need us to speak louder or go over things a bit more slowly. We can also spend extra time explaining things to a family member or others involved with the patient’s care. This enables us to maximize patients’ health and well-being as they move through the aging process. It’s a long-term partnership that is well worth considering.