GERONTOLOGIST versus GERIATRICIAN

Gerontology’ refers to the study of aging. Generally a degree in gerontology enables the holder to become an administrator of a nursing home or other age-related facility.  There is no license or certification associated with Gerontology. A ‘Gerontologist’ is a person who has studied aging and older adults. Gerontologists study physiology, social science, psychology, and public health. The field of gerontology includes studies of bodily changes from middle age through later life, multidisciplinary investigation of societal changes resulting from an aging population, and applications of this knowledge to policies and programs.

Gerontological Society of America’s mission statement is to “foster collaboration between biologists, health professionals, policymakers, behavioral and social scientists, and other age studies scholars and researchers. We believe the intersection of research from diverse areas is the best way to achieve the greatest impact and promote healthy aging.” Gerontological Society of America

Medical issues of particular interest to Geriatricians and Gerontologists are those conditions that influence the functional status of an individual as he/she gets older.

Geriatrics’ refers to the medical subspecialty focused on conditions or illnesses more commonly seen in older patients.  It is important to note the difference between Geriatrics, the care of aged people, and Gerontology, which is the study of the aging process itself. GERIATRICS is the medical care of older adults. Older adults have special healthcare needs that can make their medical care more complicated. More than half of adults age 65 and older have 3 or more medical problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, or high blood pressure.  Caring for older people with multiple health problems can be tricky, even for Geriatricians.The appropriate management of medications is one of the cornerstones of geriatrics. For example, prescribing medications for a patient with multiple health problems is more complex that a younger’s persons. A drug that might be useful in treating one health problem can make another problem worse, and taking multiple medications can cause problematic drug interactions and side effects.

A GERIATRICIAN is a doctor who is specially trained to evaluate and manage the unique healthcare needs and treatment preferences of older people. Geriatricians are board-certified internists or family physicians who have additional training and certification in geriatrics. Because of their special training, geriatricians typically provide care for frail older people who have the most complicated medical and social problems.

Geriatricians evaluate the older person’s medical, social, emotional, and other needs. They focus on health concerns common in older people such as incontinence, falls, memory problems, and managing multiple chronic conditions and medications.

A Geriatrician may
-Evaluate the older patient’s social supports and living situation
-Consider the person’s ability to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing and eating
-Give special attention to patient preferences and values in care planning

A geriatrician should be consulted when an older person’s condition causes considerable impairment and frailty. These patients tend to be over the age of 75 and have a number of diseases and disabilities, including cognitive and or memory problems.

There is no set age at which patients may be under the care of a geriatrician or geriatric physician; this decision is determined by the individual patient’s needs, and the availability of a specialist.

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About kaypaggi

I am an Aging Life Care Professional/ geriatric care manager in private practice. I have been active in eldercare consulting since 1994. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, a National Certified Gerontological Counselor (the only one in north Texas), and a Care Manager, Certified. I have been a certified Mediator since 1993, and recently achieved certification as an ElderCare Mediator.
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