FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM FEBRUARY 13, 2020 • SENIOR LIVING • THE QUEENS COURIER 49
Finding your health care ‘quarterback’
Are you 65 or older? While your primary
care doctor may be an internist or
general practitioner, have you thought
about adding a geriatrician to your health
A geriatrician can act as your health
care “quarterback,” helping to ensure you
get the specifi c care you need, as well as
coordinating care with specialists.
“Our health needs oft en change dramatically
in our later years,” said Dr.
Efrem Castillo, chief medical offi -
cer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare &
Retirement. “Th e kind of care you deliver
to an older adult is not the same as for
a middle-aged person. Th e physiology of
older people is very diff erent from people
in other stages of life.”
Th ose diff erences are signifi cant enough
that the medical community developed a
specialty - geriatrics - to address the needs
of older adults. Geriatricians are licensed
physicians who have completed
additional training in managing
the care of older people.
Th at training makes geriatricians
uniquely suited to help
older adults manage the complex
demands of their health
One source of that complexity
is chronic conditions.
Older adults are signifi cantly
more likely than their younger
counterparts to have
a chronic condition
and heart disease. In fact, about 80
percent have at least one chronic condition,
and 68 percent have two or more.
Given the prevalence of chronic conditions
in older adults, they’re also heavier
users of prescription medications than
younger adults. About 90 percent of
adults 65 and older take at least one prescription
medication, and 40 percent take
fi ve or more prescription drugs.
Juggling multiple chronic conditions
can introduce challenges for doctors
and patients, with one condition sometimes
exacerbating the eff ects of another.
Moreover, treatments for illnesses can
sometimes interfere with each other. Th at
means the recommended course of treatment
could look diff erent in a patient
with one chronic condition when compared
to a patient with several.
Establishing the ideal treatment regimen
for older adults with multiple chronic
conditions can be further complicated
by side eff ects unique
to older adults. Some medications
can be ineff ective
dangerous for older patients. Common
over-the-counter drugs such as the allergy
medication Benadryl, for example,
have been linked to serious confusion in
the elderly. Digoxin, a medication used to
treat irregular heartbeat, can be toxic to
older people when used at doses sometimes
prescribed to younger adults.
Geriatricians are trained to understand
how drugs uniquely impact older adults
so they can appropriately customize their
drug regimen to mitigate the risk of complications.
Decisions about how to customize a
patient’s treatment aren’t necessarily black
and white, requiring a doctor and patient
to carefully balance risks and benefi ts.
For example, some diabetes medicines
can cause dizziness, meaning the doctor
needs to focus not just on regulating the
patient’s blood sugar but also on minimizing
the risk of a fall, which is the most
common cause of injury for seniors.
“A lot of what geriatricians do is determining
which medications are more likely
to cause harm than help,” said Castillo.
“And the concept of shared decision
making is integral here
- asking patients, ‘What
trade-off s are you willing
Sometimes, the tradeoff
s are purely medical
in nature - weighing
the pros and cons
of taking a certain
or undergoing a specifi c screening, for
example. But more oft en than not, they
also involve a person’s overall life goals.
How important is it to maximize longevity?
Comfort? How about independence?
Each person answers those questions differently,
and geriatricians are trained to
use the answers to guide their treatment
recommendations and care plan.
When should you seek out a geriatrician
for yourself or a loved one? A significant
change in health status could be a
trigger for a visit with a geriatrician. But
any time an older adult feels his or her
care is becoming too complex or needs
better coordination, a visit with a geriatrician
Finding a geriatrician
With 10,000 Americans turning 65
every day, the demand for geriatricians
continues to grow. And despite a shortage
of certifi ed geriatricians as the demand
increases, many geriatricians will see a
patient on a one-time or as-needed basis
and then make recommendations to the
patient’s primary care physician.
Th e American Geriatrics Society off ers
information about how to fi nd a geriatrician
on its website, and many larger
hospitals and university medical centers
have geriatricians on staff that will
see new patients. If you’re enrolled in a
Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to confi
rm whether a geriatrician you want to
see is in your plan’s network and if your
plan requires you to fi rst get a referral
from your primary care physician before
a visit with a geriatrician will be covered.
UnitedHealthcare members can get
help with those questions. From scheduling
your next checkup appointment to
helping you fi nd a specialist to getting the
treatment you need, it’s easier to get the
right care at the right time.
• Check with your health insurance provider
or Medicare about whether the
cost of this new vaccine is covered
under your plan. Whether it’s helping
to schedule routine care appointments
or checkups, UnitedHealthcare can help
you navigate the healthcare system to
get the care you need as soon as you
Plans are insured through
Company or one of its affi liated
companies. For Medicare
Advantage and Prescription Drug
Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization
with a Medicare contract
and a Medicare-approved Part
D sponsor. Enrollment in these
plans depends on the plans contract
renewal with Medicare.
— Courtesy of BPT