December 9, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille


If your child developed an illness, who would you call? Without a second thought, many parents have their pediatrician’s number on speed dial so that the professional they’ve meticulously selected to manage the medical care needs of their children can help as soon as possible. Due to their specialized training, working with a trustworthy pediatrician ensures the best possible care.

Similarly, selecting a physician for an aging adult who specializes in elder medical care concerns is equally as important. Yet unfortunately, our health care system overall has not given the needed attention to the distinct health care needs of older adults. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains her qualms about the age-related health care gap, and how little professors in med school are focused on elder care.

In fact, looking back at her own residency, she shares, “We literally did the same thing for forty-year-olds as we did for eighty-year-olds, and we’d treat all eighty-year-olds the same whether they’re dependent or independent, have limited life expectancy or complete life expectancy, and that just didn’t sit well with me.”

Fortunately, new efforts are forming to provide medical students with more expansive geriatric training, including a focus on a holistic approach to older adult care – looking at the body as a whole. It is essential for seniors to find age-friendly health care through a reliable geriatrician who can supervise and piece together the effects of the often multiple specialists a senior patient sees. In fact, providing additional instruction for anyone who comes in contact with older adults in a medical setting – from EMTs to hospital receptionists and triage workers to nurses and doctors – is crucial to overcome ageism and make certain older adults obtain the standard of care they want and deserve.

Additionally, aging adults and their family caregivers could benefit from learning more about the services of a geriatrician and using one as their primary care physician. Not to be confused with gerontologists, who concentrate on aging-related issues but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have finished a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have also passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.

According to the American Society of Geriatrics, there are approximately 7,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. They recommend assessing potential geriatricians offering age-friendly health care by asking questions such as the following:

  • Do you accept my insurance plan?
  • What training and certification have you received?
  • How is communication handled – texts about prescription refills, email appointment reminders, etc.?
  • Will you work with all members of my healthcare team?
  • What is your guiding philosophy?

Schedule an in-person visit with the geriatrician for an introductory consultation, and take note of some of the following details:

  • Is there lots of parking?
  • Is the office convenient to access?
  • Does the geriatrician speak directly to the senior?
  • Is the staff courteous and respectful?
  • Do questions receive comprehensive answers?

Don’t ignore your gut feelings. If any red flags are noted, you may want to consider searching further to ensure the geriatrician selected is someone you and the older adult are fully comfortable with.

At Home Independent Living’s staff is thoroughly trained in providing compassionate, specialized care for aging adults in the comfort and familiarity of home. Reach out to us any time at 315-579-HOME (4663) for assistance or to acquire more information about how a home health aide in Syracuse, NY or the surrounding areas can provide personalized home care services for an older adult you love.