HEALTH CARE OF OLDER PEOPLE: WHEN TO CHOOSE A GERIATRIC SPECIALIST

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 13:43
Posted in category General Health
As long as you select someone who seems aware of your needs, your physician need not have formal training in geriatrics. If you have several disabling conditions or are in your eighties or beyond and need to change doctors, however, it makes sense to search out a geriatric specialist. If a doctor has been recommended as specializing in geriatrics, find out exactly what training he or she has had. Ask about plans to take the newly developed licensing examination in the field.
If you live in an urban area, explore the possibility of getting care from a hospital-based geriatric service. Geriatric services offer state-of-the-art team care for disabled older people-workers from a variety of disciplines collaborate to keep people functioning independently. If this type of service is available, the care is likely to be excellent. You will be surprised at the attention and the sensitivity to your needs. People committed to geriatrics are a special breed; they combine technical skill with heart. When necessary, they are even happy to make house calls.
Another alternative you may have is a freestanding geriatric center. To understand what services this type of institution can provide, let’s examine the offerings of one – the Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center provides what it calls an “umbrella approach” to geriatric care, addressing the full spectrum of needs of older people who are having some trouble functioning independently. It offers inpatient services and a variety of outpatient programs. There is long-term home health care for people who are housebound: all the nursing, rehabilitation, and medical services of a nursing home are offered in a patient’s own home. There is the day hospital, a center open from nine to five offering activities, meals, nursing, and rehabilitation. There is the hospice program for people who are terminally ill. (Hospices minister to dying patients and their families, offering counseling and treatment directed toward pain control and comfort rather than cure. To enter this program, now covered by Medicare, a person must be judged as having no more than six months to live and must be willing to abandon curative treatments.) There also is an Emergency Alarm Response System (EARS). For a small monthly charge a subscriber’s telephone is hooked up to a central switchboard. Someone calls daily to check in. If there is no answer, a neighbor comes by to check. The older person living alone has the comfort of knowing help will arrive in a medical emergency.
There also is Elderplan, an HMO specifically for people over sixty-five. By paying a fixed sum, enrollees are entitled to all the outpatient services the center offers plus traditional medical and hospital care and care in a nursing home.
Except for Elderplan, all the programs offered at this geriatric center are now available in many communities. They are components of what is called a continuum of care. They exist to prevent nursing-home placement, to keep people with disabilities functioning in the community.
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GENERAL HEALTH
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