Geriatric Medicine: What You Need to Know

Female senior patient talking with female physician.

Published October 12, 2018

Many of us have heard of geriatric medicine before, but few people know all it entails. Geriatric Medicine is one of the most complex specialties in health care. From finding a physician to having numerous chronic illnesses, older adults face many difficulties when as they age.

What is Geriatric Medicine?

Professor Chair, Department of Medicine

Geriatric Medicine is a specialty that provides care specifically to people 65 years and older. Specialty care is imperative for older adults because about 65 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic diseases and 43 percent have three or more, according to healthinaging.org. Having multiple diseases results in older patients taking multiple prescriptions and receiving assistance from a variety of doctors.

Common Conditions

There are many chronic illnesses and geriatric syndromes that lead to patients receiving more than one medication. Daniel Morelli, MD, who specializes in Family Medicine and Geriatric Medicine, provides insight into some of the most common conditions. Geriatric conditions include:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Dementia
  • Behavioral concerns

How to Slow Progression

Although there are many health problems that develop as people age, several general approaches can help slow the progression of common conditions.  Dr. Morelli, who is also the president of UBMD Family Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, recommended activities, such as intellectual challenges and physical conditioning.

Problems in Geriatric Care

The two leading obstacles regarding Geriatric Care are finding physicians and taking multiple medications. Finding a physician can be difficult because of the coordination involved with assisting older adults who may have complex health conditions. Most geriatric patients see a variety of doctors, ranging from nutritionists to physical therapists. In addition to seeing multiple doctors, taking more than one medication is often required. Receiving medication for a condition is typically viewed as beneficial for the patient; however, too many medications can be problematic without proper oversight, which should be provided by a family medicine/geriatric physician. For example, a medication that may be beneficial for one condition may exacerbate another.

Who Can Help

There are other aspects to geriatric care that do not involve medications or treatments. It is imperative for older adults to maintain social contact. Dr. Morelli says, "family support properly directed can be helpful." While family and social support isn't an official treatment for diseases, it does play a significant role in geriatric health. Research from the National Institute on Aging website has shown that social interaction can promote the well-being of older adults.

Where to Get Geriatric Care

Finding a physician may seem hard but UBMD has you covered. Physicians at UBMD Family Medicine can help. If you have questions or concerns about geriatric care, or need to schedule an appointment, call 716.688.9641.

Dr. Morelli has been practicing medicine for over 40 years, and has been with UBMD Family Medicine since 1980, becoming president of the practice in 2013.  He serves as professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science and has participated in various research projects.  He received his medical degree at the University of Buffalo and now teaches UB's next generation of doctors.