What is geriatrics and how does it differ from other medical specialties?
Geriatrics is dedicated to the study and care of the health of the elderly, seeking not only to treat diseases, but also to prevent them and promote healthy aging.
As life expectancy increases, so does the need for specific medical care for the elderly population and for people who wish to grow old with quality of life and autonomy.
What are the most common health problems faced by elderly patients?
Some of the most common health problems are cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary artery disease and heart failure, respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, diabetes and other metabolic diseases, neurological diseases such as dementia and stroke (CVA), arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases, vision and hearing problems, falls and bone fractures, depression and other psychological conditions.
|1. Alzheimer’s disease||Memory loss, confusion, difficulty with problem solving, disorientation, mood swings, behavioral problems, and difficulty with language.|
|2. Osteoarthritis||Pain, stiffness, joint swelling, limited range of motion, and occasional warmth around the affected joint.|
|3. Parkinson’s disease||Tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity, postural instability, shuffling gait and reduced facial expressions.|
|4. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)||Shortness of breath, persistent cough, wheezing, excessive mucus production, fatigue and frequent respiratory infections.|
|5. Diabetes Mellitus||Increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing sores, and frequent infections.|
|6. Congestive Heart Failure||Shortness of breath, fatigue, rapid weight gain, swollen ankles and feet, irregular heartbeat, and persistent coughing or wheezing.|
|7. Hypertension||Often asymptomatic, but can include headache, nosebleeds, dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath in severe cases.|
|8. Osteoporosis||Often asymptomatic, but can include back pain, loss of height, stooped posture, and fractures that occur easily or spontaneously.|
|9. Age related macular degeneration (AMD)||Blurred or distorted central vision, difficulty recognizing faces, difficulty adapting to low light, and needing brighter light when reading.|
|10. Urinary incontinence||Involuntary loss of urine, sudden and strong urge to urinate, frequent urination and difficulty emptying the bladder completely.|
How can geriatrics help improve the quality of life of elderly patients?
The geriatric professional can help improve the quality of life of elderly patients in several ways.
It can be through disease prevention and management, treatment of comorbidities, prescription of appropriate medications, monitoring of functionality, interventions in risk situations, social and psychological interventions and even palliative and end-of-life care.
The benefits of seeing a geriatrician
One of the main benefits of seeing a geriatrician is that he or she acts as a point of reference for diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions related to aging.
The geriatrician is able to identify whether a situation is serious and requires immediate intervention or whether it can be treated more calmly and preventively.
For example, emotional issues such as anxiety and depression can trigger a range of physical symptoms such as insomnia, palpitations and dizziness. These symptoms may not represent illnesses in themselves, but they significantly affect the patient’s quality of life.
The geriatrician can provide the necessary support to deal with these problems and prevent the development of more serious complications, such as diabetes or hypertension.
Are there any lifestyle or dietary modifications that could help reduce the onset of geriatric conditions?
Yes, there are a number of lifestyle and dietary changes that can help reduce the onset of geriatric conditions.
The main ones are practicing physical exercises regularly, according to individual capacity, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources, reducing the consumption of processed foods, sugar and saturated fats, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, sleeping well and maintaining emotional balance.
What can family members do to support elderly patients?
Family members can offer company and emotional support, help with domestic and personal tasks, accompany medical consultations and treatments, provide information about medications and medical care, encourage the practice of physical and mental activities, ensure a healthy and balanced diet, in addition to monitoring the state of health and communicate any changes to the responsible health professionals.
Geriatrics is a fundamental medical specialty for the care and treatment of the elderly.
Looking for a geriatrician is an excellent option for those who want to receive proper guidance and care regarding aging.