What is Geriatrics?

Geriatrics focuses on managing acute and chronic diseases and syndromes mainly in frail older people and recently has focused on health promotion and prevention related to the diseases of ageing. The purpose of Preventive Geriatrics is the cultivation of a state of physical, intellectual and mental health, which will allow a maximum life expectancy while maintaining a high degree of functionality for ageing individuals. For example, prevention of falls and of osteoporosis can improve health and longevity of the patient. Tackling poor nutritional status may enhance healing and patient participation in structured rehabilitation programs. The role of rehabilitation is crucial so that older patients, but also society as a whole, may develop socially and economically. Physical activity is also an important component for better aging, through its positive and holistic influence in the aging process.

Who does it concern?

Geriatrics is a medical specialty concerned with the physical, functional and social conditions of the elderly in acute, chronic, rehabilitative, preventive and terminal care.

This group of patients exhibits a high degree of vulnerability and evolving multiple pathologies requiring a holistic approach. Diseases may appear differently in old age, are often very difficult to diagnose, the response to treatment is often delayed and there frequently is a need for social support.

Geriatrics therefore surpasses system-specific medicine, offering additional therapy within a multiprofessional / interdisciplinary team, whose main objective is to optimize the functional status of elderly people and to improve their quality of life and autonomy.

In the course of aging, a decline is observed in cognitive, motor, sensory and cardiovascular functions, leading to potential loss of autonomy. The objective of geriatrics then is the prevention and treatment of these complex situations where very often the symptoms are atypical and communication with the affected person difficult.

What is a Geriatric assessment?

A Geriatric assessment is the main tool of Geriatrics.   It is a broad term describing the assessment of health of elderly patients, emphasizing different elements compared to a conventional medical assessment. This approach recognizes that the health status of older patients depends on the effects of factors beyond their medical diseases. Among these are social, psychological and environmental factors as well as mental health. A geriatric assessment further focuses on the functional status, both as a parameter to be estimated, and as a result which must be improved or maintained.

Therefore, a Geriatric assessment by a clinical geriatrician, exceeds the range of traditional disease-focused evaluations and includes an assessment of cognitive, emotional, functional, social, economic, environmental status and spirituality of the whole individual. Information gathered from this assessment may direct the attention of the physician to particularly important issues concerning each specific patient.

Assessment structure

Geriatrics is characterized by a multidisciplinary and team approach to the problems concerning older people. Initially, data is collected through the geriatric assessment, and then discussed within the framework of a team that includes geriatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, and specialist physicians in other fields.  The team aims to find the particularities of each elderly person leading to the creation of an individualized treatment plan, in cooperation with the attending physician.

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