What is a Geriatrician? Should I Be Seeing One?

The short answer from a geriatric medicine specialist
Elderly woman visits with her doctor for a checkup

Q: What is a geriatrician, and how are they different from my primary care doctor?

A: A geriatrician is a doctor who is a successful aging specialist. We have additional training in successful aging – so not just treating diseases of the elderly but also preventing diseases of the elderly.

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What we do is very distinct and unique. We are not trying to duplicate what your primary care physician does. Your primary care physician knows you well, and you have a relationship that has been built over time. We very much want you to have that. But we want you, in addition, to come in and see your aging specialist once a year. 

We will talk about issues that might not come up in conversation with your primary care physician, such as:

  • Preserving brain health.
  • Preserving physical strength and endurance.
  • Medication management, and getting off any medicines that are no longer helping you.
  • Prioritizing and planning for healthcare in the future.

There are about 52 ways that our bodies naturally change between ages 50 and 80 – things like eyesight, hearing and memory. We can talk through those things and differentiate between what’s normal and what’s not. We also talk about the importance of less obvious things like staying hydrated because you might not feel as thirsty, and eating enough protein so that you’re maintaining muscle.

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We generally start seeing people around age 50. There’s not an age where you suddenly become “geriatric,” but in terms of successful aging, you can never start too early.

We want you to feel empowered to know what’s changing with your own body so that you can take control of your own health and make these adjustments. People are living longer but they’re also living better. We are the biggest advocate for each one of us as we get older.

— Geriatric medicine specialist Ardeshir Hashmi, MD

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