When to See a Geriatric Specialist | Torrance Memorial

When to See a Geriatric Specialist

After 65, Safeguard Your Health with an Expert on Aging

senior couple talking to physician

Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick

Geriatric specialists focus on promoting health, preventing illness, and the diagnosis and treatment of disease and disability in older adults. Dr. Lorena Layrisse Landaeta, a Torrance Memorial Physician Network primary care physician and geriatric specialist, recommends seniors seek out the care of a geriatric specialist before they start experiencing the health conditions commonly affecting older adults including frailty, dementia, urinary incontinence, gait disorders, sleep disorders, depression, malnutrition and falls.

What is the focus of geriatric medicine?

Geriatric medicine specializes in the health of adults ages 65 and older. It focuses on the biological and psychosocial aspects of normal aging, the psychiatric impact of acute and chronic physical illnesses affecting older adults, and the biological and psychosocial aspects of medical disorders beginning or continuing into older age.

When is it the right time to seek the care of a geriatric specialist?

Begin seeing a geriatrician at age 65 even if you don’t have any of the common geriatric health conditions. It is important to get a comprehensive geriatric assessment and work with your primary care provider to prevent common age-related health issues.

What are the benefits of seeing a geriatric specialist?

Seeing a geriatric specialist is an opportunity to address any geriatric syndromes that may be beginning to affect you. These conditions have a major impact on quality of life and disability. Geriatric conditions such as functional impairment, frailty and dementia are common and are frequently unrecognized or inadequately addressed in older adults. They are best identified by a geriatric assessment. Frailty is a geriatric syndrome of physiological decline that increases the need for full-time institutional care and increases the risk of hospitalizations, surgical complications, disability and death. A geriatrician can work closely with you to treat or prevent development of these conditions and help you live a long, happy and healthy life.

What kinds of evaluations and treatments does a geriatric specialist provide?

They perform a comprehensive geriatric assessment which incorporates medical, social, psychological and functional domains with a special focus on geriatric syndromes. They will recommend physical activity, healthy diet – specifically the Mediterranean diet - memory exercises, sleep hygiene and reducing polypharmacy (taking more medications than are medically necessary) to prevent medication side effects.

Exercise habits often fluctuate as we get older, but it is important to keep your body moving for general health and also cardiovascular and mental health.

What are some specific health concerns seniors should discuss with their geriatric specialist?

Specific health concerns seniors should discuss with their geriatrician include, but are not limited to, difficulty walking, insomnia, memory problems, falls, incontinence, advance care directives, polypharmacy, depression, caregiver burden and frailty. Part of the training geriatric specialists have is addressing the specific needs of patients who are in long-term care facilities including assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, nursing homes, palliative care and hospice units.

How does specialized geriatric care affect long-term health and quality of life for seniors?

Healthy aging is about being able to do the things you want and enjoying your life. We promote physical activity and motivate patients to work hard on staying active. This is so important for maintaining strength, having more energy and improving balance to prevent falls. Geriatric specialists work closely with older adults, and their families, to identify frailty and prevent its progression. We focus on quality of life by addressing medication, nutrition and memory disorders early on. It’s our goal to keep you independent and active without feeling tired or in pain all the time.