The specialty of medicine that focuses on the health care of elderly people is known as geriatrics. The goal of geriatrics is to promote the health of the elderly by preventing and treating conditions, diseases and disabilities which may affect them. A physician who specializes in the care of elderly people is known as a geriatric physician or geriatrician and those who decide to see one make such a determination themselves based on their own needs.
However, there are some major categories of impairment that tend to appear more so in elderly people than adults. These usually include, instability, immobility, urinary incontinence, diabetes, impaired memory and intellect and impaired vision and hearing loss. The last two are chronic problems that are very common amongst the elderly. When people have problems hearing or seeing, the elderly can become isolated and feel depressed as they can no longer listen to people on the telephone, talk with other people or engage in simple transactions. Problems with the ability to see can lead to falls over objects that are unseen, the mismanagement of finances and incorrectly taking medications because the written instructions could not be read.
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Taking all of these into consideration, the health needs of older adults can be complex and so a comprehensive, coordinated approach needs to be taken in order to ensure the proper care. When elderly people begin to show signs of impairment, a center that specializes in geriatrics should be contacted so that an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, case managers and social workers can coordinate their efforts with the primary care physician, physical and occupational therapists, private nurses, local visiting nurse associations as well as other community service agencies to develop a treatment plan that addresses medical, psychological, social and functional issues. The type of care can also be determined whether it should be at home, in an ambulatory practice, at a nursing home, or in the hospital.
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Home care programs are designed for those who want to remain at home so as to maintain their independence. Various home care services and specialty services such ophthalmology, podiatry, psychiatry and hearing services can be obtained and coordinated so the elderly who choose to remain at home can still maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ambulatory care is for the elderly who can still go to a doctor’s office and be treated for such conditions as chronic pain, diabetes and multiple medications.
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Nursing home care can be short-term which is more rehabilitative in nature for those who have undergone treatment at a hospital with the expectation of returning home or long-term for those who become residents of the nursing home.
Special services are also available for those show the first signs of memory loss up to those who have more neurocognitive impairment. Those in the clinical setting evaluate patients with lab testing and imaging to determine the cause for memory loss and assistance from social workers is also available to help families of those suffering from memory manage the condition. This can make for a more family-centered approach so as to make the patient more comfortable in the clinical setting and provide emotional support for their families.