Over the past few decades, the latest advances and developments in medicine and technology have increased the average life expectancy of the general population. As a result about a quarter of the population in western countries is comprised of individuals over 65 years of age. Geriatric medicine is a unique approach to provide primary healthcare to these elderly individuals. There are several factors which highlight the need for a more multidisciplinary and holistic approach to meet the healthcare needs of this population, some of which are as follows:
- Age predisposes the elderly to a number of chronic diseases and functional problems.
- Multiple drug therapies make the elderly more susceptible to adverse drug reactions.
- Certain diagnostic tests are quite uncomfortable and may be associated with additional risk in the older population.
This holistic approach is comprised of evaluating the patient’s physical, mental and functional status to perform their daily activities. This should be coupled with assessment and identification of any depression or memory impairment. A geriatrician would review the patient’s history and devise an individualized plan for managing the treatment of the patient to optimize outcome and improve their quality of life. The patient may be referred to other specialists, depending on the clinical condition of the patient.