What does a geriatrician do?

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What is a Geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the healthcare of older adults, typically those aged 65 and older. These physicians have expertise in managing the unique medical, social, and emotional needs of elderly patients, who often have complex medical conditions and multiple chronic diseases.

Geriatricians focus on promoting healthy aging, preventing age-related health problems, and improving the quality of life for older adults through comprehensive medical care, personalized treatment plans, and holistic approaches to wellness. They address a wide range of issues commonly encountered in aging populations, including chronic pain, cognitive decline, frailty, mobility limitations, polypharmacy, and end-of-life care.

What does a Geriatrician do?

A geriatrician talking to an elderly patient.

Duties and Responsibilities
Geriatricians have a wide range of duties and responsibilities aimed at providing comprehensive medical care to older adults. Some of their key duties and responsibilities include:

  • Medical Assessment and Diagnosis: Geriatricians conduct thorough medical assessments of older patients to evaluate their overall health, functional status, cognitive function, and social support systems. They review patients' medical histories, perform physical examinations, and order diagnostic tests to diagnose and manage chronic medical conditions, acute illnesses, and age-related health issues.
  • Management of Chronic Diseases: Geriatricians specialize in managing the complex medical needs of older adults with multiple chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and dementia. They develop personalized treatment plans that address the unique needs and preferences of each patient, including medication management, lifestyle modifications, preventive care, and coordination of specialty care.
  • Functional Assessment and Rehabilitation: Geriatricians assess older adults' functional abilities, including mobility, balance, strength, and activities of daily living (ADLs). They identify impairments and functional limitations that may impact patients' independence and quality of life and collaborate with rehabilitation specialists, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, to develop personalized rehabilitation programs to improve mobility, functional capacity, and overall well-being.
  • Cognitive Assessment and Dementia Care: Geriatricians evaluate older adults for cognitive impairment, dementia, and other neurocognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. They conduct cognitive assessments, administer screening tests, and coordinate diagnostic evaluations, including neuroimaging and neuropsychological testing, to diagnose and manage cognitive decline. Geriatricians provide education, support, and guidance to patients and their families regarding disease progression, treatment options, and strategies for managing behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.
  • Medication Management and Polypharmacy: Geriatricians review older adults' medication regimens to identify potential drug interactions, adverse effects, and inappropriate prescribing practices. They optimize medication therapy by minimizing polypharmacy, deprescribing unnecessary medications, and prescribing evidence-based treatments that are appropriate for older adults' medical conditions, comorbidities, and age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.
  • End-of-Life Care and Advance Care Planning: Geriatricians engage in discussions with older adults and their families regarding end-of-life care preferences, goals of care, and advance care planning. They provide compassionate and supportive care to patients with advanced illnesses, facilitate discussions about palliative care and hospice services, and ensure that patients' wishes for medical care and treatment are respected and honored.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Geriatricians work collaboratively with interdisciplinary healthcare teams, including nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other specialists, to address the complex medical, social, and functional needs of older adults. They coordinate care transitions, facilitate communication among healthcare providers, and advocate for comprehensive and patient-centered care that promotes healthy aging and maintains older adults' dignity and autonomy.

Types of Geriatricians
Geriatricians may have various areas of expertise or practice settings. Here are some common types of geriatricians based on their focus or practice environment:

  • Academic Geriatricians: Academic geriatricians are involved in teaching, research, and clinical practice related to geriatrics and aging. They work in academic medical centers, universities, and research institutions, where they educate medical students, residents, and fellows in geriatric medicine, conduct research on aging-related topics, and provide clinical care to older adults.
  • Consultative Geriatricians: Consultative geriatricians specialize in providing consultations and recommendations for older adults with complex medical issues. They may work in hospitals, nursing homes, or other healthcare settings, where they collaborate with primary care physicians, specialists, and interdisciplinary teams to optimize the care of older patients with multiple chronic conditions or acute medical issues.
  • Home-Based Geriatricians: Home-based geriatricians provide medical care to older adults in their homes, offering convenient and personalized healthcare services to individuals who have difficulty accessing traditional medical care settings. They conduct home visits, perform medical assessments, and coordinate home-based care services to help older adults maintain independence and age in place.
  • Long-Term Care Geriatricians: Long-term care geriatricians specialize in providing medical care to older adults residing in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities. They address the complex medical needs of residents, coordinate care with nursing staff and other healthcare providers, and advocate for quality of life and resident-centered care.
  • Memory Care Geriatricians: Memory care geriatricians focus on diagnosing and managing cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. They specialize in assessing cognitive function, conducting diagnostic evaluations, and developing personalized care plans to support patients and their families throughout the course of the disease.
  • Palliative Care Geriatricians: Palliative care geriatricians specialize in providing symptom management, pain relief, and supportive care to older adults with serious or life-limiting illnesses. They focus on improving quality of life, alleviating suffering, and addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients and their families facing advanced illness or end-of-life care decisions.

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What is the workplace of a Geriatrician like?

The workplace of a geriatrician is diverse, reflecting the varied needs and settings where older adults receive medical care. One common workplace for geriatricians is outpatient clinics, where they provide primary care services to older adults in an office-based setting. In these clinics, geriatricians conduct comprehensive medical assessments, manage chronic conditions, and address preventive healthcare needs tailored to the aging population. They engage with patients on a one-on-one basis, building relationships and collaborating with them to optimize their health and well-being as they age.

Another significant workplace for geriatricians is long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities. In these settings, geriatricians play a crucial role in providing medical care to residents who often have complex medical needs. They work closely with interdisciplinary teams to address the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects of aging, striving to maintain residents' dignity, autonomy, and quality of life. Geriatricians in long-term care settings conduct regular rounds, oversee medication management, and coordinate care to ensure that residents receive comprehensive and person-centered care tailored to their individual needs.

Additionally, some geriatricians work in academic medical centers or universities, where they contribute to teaching, research, and clinical practice in the field of geriatrics. In academic settings, geriatricians educate future generations of healthcare professionals, conduct research to advance knowledge in aging-related topics, and provide specialized clinical care to older adults. They may lead interdisciplinary teams, develop innovative care models, and advocate for policies that promote healthy aging and improve healthcare outcomes for older adults.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


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See Also
Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician