Individuals, at every stage of their lives, have specific health requirements. For senior citizens, one of the challenges that they encounter with maturing age is temporary or chronic medical conditions. In fact, more than half of adults over the age of 65 have three or more medical disorders, for example, heart conditions, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease or even high blood pressure.
What is Geriatric Medicine?
For patients, especially older adults have multiple health problems. Prescribing medicines under these circumstances becomes even more complex. A medication that may be suitable for treating one condition may have a negative impact on another health issue. In addition to that, consuming different types of medications may result in problematic drug interactions leading to side effects.
There is a difference between standard adult medicine and geriatric medicine as it concentrates solely on the distinctive needs of senior citizens. With the natural ageing process of the body, it becomes different physiologically compared to the body of a younger adult. Ageing also leads to multiple organs in the body to decline. Lifestyle choices result in several health conditions manifesting in the body at the same time.
Geriatric medicine is speciality healthcare vertical more commonly associated with being a sub-speciality of Internal Medicine. It a branch of medicine that is concerned with specific medical requirements, health disorders and conditions in older adults. In fact, geriatric medicine is the largest medical speciality.
Common Geriatric Issues
Health problems are going to be more challenging with age. Awareness of common chronic health conditions in the elderly will help in seeking treatment at the right time.
Chronic health conditions:
Statistics state that almost 92% of senior citizens have at least one chronic health condition and approximately 72% have at least two. Common chronic conditions in older adults include:
Healthcare providers recommend an annual examination that helps to maintain the patient’s diet followed by a supplementary exercise routine and a check on lifestyle behaviours.
An individual’s ability to think, learn and remember translates in cognitive health. The common cognitive conditions that affect older adults is dementia.
The leading cause of dementia in older adults may be due to other chronic health conditions such as substance abuse, diabetes, depression, hypertension, smoking and HIV.
With increasing age, men and women, both, may suffer from chronic respiratory ailments such as:
Respiratory conditions in the elderly may also lead subsequent health complications, for example, pneumonia and other infections. Lung functions tests at regular intervals are recommended as a preventive measure.
The World Health Organization states that around 15% of the senior citizens post the age of 60 years, probably experience some form of a mental condition. The most popular mental condition is depression that impacts over 7% of older adults.
Depression may also be a side effect of a more chronic disorder in the elderly. By making healthy lifestyle choices, better living conditions along with social support from family and friends goes a long way in treating depression.
The leading cause of fatalities in older adults is due to physical injuries. The bones shrink and the muscles lose flexibility and strength due to a process of ageing, putting the elderly at a higher risk of losing their balance, possibly bruising and fracturing a bone.
Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are the two key causes that contribute to their frailty, eventually leading to physical injuries.
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases:
Reports state that almost 21% of adults over the age of 50 are diagnosed with AIDS.
With a lack of awareness in the elderly population of using safe methods of intimacy, makes them more susceptible to contracting HIV and/or AIDS. Diagnosis of these conditions in most cases with older adults are typically late as symptoms are similar to those of a normal ageing process.
Influenza and Pneumonia
Influenza and pneumonia are not chronic conditions but is one of the top eight causes of death amongst the elderly. Annual flu injections and getting vaccinated for pneumonia are some of the preventive measures that older adults may adopt to ward of these life-threatening infections.
Malnutrition often goes undiagnosed in the elderly, particularly for those over 65 years, which may result in a debilitated immune system and weak muscles. Other health issues such as dementia, depression, alcoholism, dietary restrictions, too may trigger malnutrition in senior citizens.
By increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables and making healthy dietary changes and limiting the consumption of saturated fat and salt can assist in nutrition problems in older adults.
Impairment of the sensory system, specifically auditory and vision are common within the older population. Therapeutic and remedial measures may be taken for most sensory impairments.
A report stated that 25 % of adults of 65 years and older, do not have natural teeth. Common oral conditions such as cavities and tooth decay also impact in terms of maintaining a healthy diet and may possibly lead to more complicated health issues. Known oral conditions associated with old age are:
With periodic dental examinations, these conditions are treatable and manageable.
Bladder Control and Constipation
Losing bladder control and constipation together is a common ailment affecting the elderly and their quality of life. Other chronic health conditions and age-related changes may also trigger constipation and bladder control issues.
Maintaining a healthy diet and complementing it with a physical activity routing may help in preventing these conditions in the elderly.
When to See a Geriatrician?
Geriatricians are specialists in treating the health conditions affecting the elderly through a patient-centric, compassionate and holistic approach. Working closely with general practitioners, colleagues from allied medical discipline, geriatricians are able to diagnose and manage acute conditions and chronic disorders.
Seeking the advice of the geriatrician is required by older patients when:
If the patients are considered as older adults, 60 for men and 58 for women in India, specifically. Geriatric medicine will make certain that older adults are able to pursue a healthy disposition for as long as possible.
If adults are already plagued with complicated health problems before they officially become senior citizens. The body, over a period of time gradually breaks down, thus leading to additional health issues.
If the consumption of medications is already on the higher side, then the patients may be at an increased risk of developing other health conditions. Geriatricians will keep a close watch on the intake of medications and introduce treatments that may possibly allow medical interventions to be simpler, comfortable and convenient.
If the older adults are already vulnerable to health conditions and diseases which in time may become more pronounced with maturing age. Geriatricians will monitor the patient’s health through a series of diagnostic tests and possibly an annual physical examination.
If the elderly require assistance, Geriatricians can also help in terms of promoting social relationships, boosting cognitive capabilities so that the patient can be as independent as possible with maturing age.
About the Department
The Department of Geriatrics at Fortis Hospital in Chennai is a specialised division in detecting and treating complex medical diseases and disorder in elderly patients. We aim to design comprehensive geriatric care plans that are geared toward preserving independence and enhancing the quality of life for patients experiencing geriatric conditions.
A key attribute that Fortis Geriatricians along with their team members perform is to provide rehabilitation post with an illness.
This ensures that our patients have a clear directive in working towards certain rehabilitation goals. This process of adaption is possible as our expert Geriatricians possess years of experience and a thorough knowledge of physical treatments.
Fortis, Chennai and its Department of Geriatrics has single target and mission – to ensure that our geriatric patients are healthy, active, independent and are equipped with the abilities to maintain a high quality of life. However, if the health conditions become more complex, our specialist teams are available to manage over your complete care.
The ‘Mecca of Medicine’, Fortis Hospital has enriched the lives of many Chennaites, and has earned a reputation of delivering world-class healthcare services at their modern facilities.