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What’s a Gerontologist? 5 Tips for Finding a New Geriatric Doctor

What’s a Gerontologist?

A gerontologist is a doctor who specializes in older adults (adults over 60). It’s the older adult equivalent of the pediatrician you or your children may have seen as youths. 


As we age, our bodies make many predictable adjustments and changes. These changes affect how things like illness, injury, and medication impact us. A gerontologist specializes in these unique aspects of the human experience and can be an incredible resource for you or your loved ones throughout the inevitable aging process.


How Do You Know A Loved One Needs One?

While a gerontologist can be helpful for any older adult, they aren’t always necessary. For most general care situations, a primary care physician is still the most practical choice. The need for a specialist should be considered if you or your loved one shows signs of:


A gerontologist can be especially helpful if you or the loved one in your care:


  • Suffer from multiple medical conditions

  • Discover that prescribed treatments interact with each other or another ailment

  • Experience functional decline or physical weakness

  • Have a disease specifically associated with aging, such as dementia, incontinence, or osteoporosis

  • Manage multiple medications at once


5 Things to Look For in a Gerontologist

If your loved one fits one of the above categories, you may want to consider a gerontologist to oversee at least some parts of their care. There are several things to help narrow down your options when considering your first (or a new) gerontologist. Let’s touch on those, next.


Ask around

The first thing you should do when looking for a good local gerontologist is to ask around. If you know anyone who has worked with a gerontologist they liked before, that’s the most promising place to start your search. 


You can get referrals from friends, colleagues, neighbors, or loved ones, of course, but if you don’t personally know anyone with experience in this arena, you can check local Facebook groups or Healthgrades for reviews and recommendations. 


Look into them 

As we touched on, referrals are the best way to find a good local gerontologist, but resource sites like Healthgrades and state medical board archives are great places to get confirmation. They aggregate data about the physician’s credentials and specialties and allow you to confirm board certification. 


Board certification verifies that the gerontologist has the necessary training, skills, and experience to serve any geriatric healthcare needs. (Source)


You can also find things like their: 


  • Medical school

  • Additional certifications

  • Or disciplinary history.

Ask about specialties 

Suppose you or your loved one is dealing with a specific ailment, medication(s), or aging condition. In that case, you can further specialize within the available eldercare professionals by requesting one that is more knowledgeable/experienced with that condition specifically.


Have a test appointment

Choosing a physician is about more than just credentials. You may need to rely on them or see them frequently. So before committing to one long term, make sure that their communication style, hospital, and facilities meet your needs and expectations. If you are at all uncomfortable in their care or feel you can’t trust/aren’t heard by them, you’ll be less likely to use them when you need to, negating the purpose.


Double check insurance

Make sure your insurance (whether it’s private insurance or Medi-Cal/Medicare) covers both the doctor themselves and the facility you’ll need to use in order to see them. 


Contact your insurance provider for more information about your existing coverage or to find a more suitable option. 


Closing Thoughts: Tips for Finding a Good Gerontologist

To summarize, finding a good gerontologist is about research and due diligence. Start that research by asking around to see if anyone in your network has a good recommendation. Then take any recommendations and put them through review using resources like Healthgrades to verify credentials. Verify the doctor and facilities fit with your insurance, then test the doctor and facility to make sure they meet your needs, or try a few before you commit.


The California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here to provide assistance and guidance to help you do that. Check out our library of resources to help you navigate this experience. Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s).


Further Reading: Fitting in Fitness: Prioritizing Wellness as a Family Caregiver

From the emotional toll of witnessing a loved one's struggle up close to the physical and mental strain of continuous care, family caregivers navigate a complicated situation each day. As such, it can be hard to prioritize the caregiver’s own health. It’s easy for it to feel secondary to their loved one’s more pressing needs. 


In this article, we’ll look at why focusing on your health as a caregiver matters, how you and the loved one(s) in your care can benefit from prioritizing exercise each day, and how to incorporate it into your routine. Click here to read all about it.

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