As we age, it is very common for ailments to arise, requiring constant checkups. In doing so, the onset of diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and various forms of dementia (including Alzheimer’s), but also more common problems, such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, can be prevented or detected in time. The geriatric examination is crucial in preventing and providing the best care for elderly patients. 

What is the best age to consult a geriatrician?

In general, geriatric consultation should be indicated from age 75. Still, it should be moved up at the age of 65 in the presence of conditions or diseases, such as neurological or cardiological disorders that affect autonomy, diabetes, difficulty remembering (also called amnestic deficits), or disorders in the emotional sphere, such as anxiety, depression or insomnia. These are conditions that can evolve and impair future well-being.

In addition to treating the patient, the geriatrician aims to promote successful aging. This means promoting the maintenance and preservation of all functions and autonomy at the highest possible level and for the longest possible time. 

Geriatric visit: How does it work?

The geriatric visit is no different from other visits: It starts with the doctor asking about your medical history of past and most recent pathological events, assessing the presence or absence of pain, and investigating current therapy. 

As a second step – peculiar to geriatrics – information is gathered regarding social and relational conditions and possible architectural barriers in the patient’s home. Emphasis is placed on reporting any memory disturbances, behavioral or mood changes, sleep or appetite disorders, weight changes, movement difficulties, or falls. 

At this point, a complete clinical examination is performed. The last step is the multidimensional assessment, which consists of administering tests that help assess several areas: Personal and instrumental autonomy, motor stability or risk of falling and the extent of such risk, and screening for any cognitive deficits or mood disorders. 

Based on such assessment, the specialist will provide diagnostic-therapeutic information and customized advice regarding the various areas assessed: Lifestyle, eating habits, motor rehabilitation interventions, further diagnostic investigations, and application for Civil Disability, to name a few.

Clinical checkups can occur in healthy conditions as often as every 6-8 months. In case of newly found pathology or disorder, more frequent checkups are advisable.

The most common geriatric syndromes

The most common geriatric syndromes include:

  • Dementia; 
  • Depression;
  • Motor instability-causing falls; 
  • Immobility;
  • Incontinence;
  • Malnutrition associated or not with dysphagia. 

The geriatrician’s tasks include, above all, identifying, within the elderly population, those with a “robustness” or “frailty-pre-fragility” profile since the ability to react and recover to/from a stressful event (acute illness) differs among profile types and results in a progression to a higher level of dependency to complete disability for the frailest. 

Therefore, geriatric caregiving aims to identify and correct the critical areas that make a person more or less frail to delay the progression to disability as much as possible. Through individualized interventions, the geriatrician’s help also makes it possible to promote the stabilization and recovery of functions and resources so that the patient can continue living independently.