Elderly health care requires ongoing involvement with the health care system which includes a wide variety of professionals.
This includes physicians, pharmacists, nurses, therapists and many others.
It can be overwhelming for both the senior and their family. It is often difficult to remember which health care professional is responsible for which area, what you can do to help and who is the best person to answer a certain question.
The health care system provides elderly health care but it's important to take an active role in your aging parents care.
It's important you know what each professional is focused on and how they can best serve your loved one.
Takes notes, educate yourself (and your parents) on their health conditions. Ask questions and make informed decisions.
A brief description of the different health care professionals involved in elderly health care is provided below.
It can give you an idea as to what they specialize in and what aspect of health care for elderly they are focused on when caring for your elderly parents.
There are several types of medical doctors who provide elderly health care, including:
Anesthesiologist - Are physicians who study and administer anesthesia and anesthetic medicines usually for minor and major surgeries without the patient having to feel more than the prick of the anesthetic needle(to block pain or put you to "sleep" during more major surgeries).
Andrologist - Are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders related to the male reproductive system.
Cardiologist - Are physicians who specializes in the heart and cardiovascular system. They treat conditions of the heart and blood vessels and there are several subspecialties within the branch of cardiology. They specialize in procedures such as pacemakers, cardiac catheterization and other cardiovascular procedures.
Dermatologist A dermatologist is a physician who specializes in skin care. Dermatologists are trained in the specific diseases and conditions that affect the skin. They also specialize in the proper care of the skin. They perform surgical procedures related to the skin such as biopsies to determine the proper diagnosis of a condition. They may also remove moles and other skin growths.
Emergency Doctors - Are physicians who offer their services in the emergency room (ER) and are on call 24/7. They treat various emergency cases that vary from poisoning, broken bones, burns, heart attack, and anything and everything that can be termed as a medical emergency.
Endocrinologist - Is a sub-specialty of Internal Medicine. They are physicians who treat people for endocrine or gland problems. Glands are organs that produce and secrete hormones necessary to control and regulate bodily functions. Endocrinologists commonly treat seniors with thyroid problems and diabetics.
Family Physician - Also called general practitioners. Are physicians who treat a variety of common ailments. They commonly refer to specialists for consultation and expertise.
Gastroenterologist - Is a sub-specialty of Internal Medicine. They are physicians involved in elderly health care who specialize in digestive system problems. They diagnose and treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and biliary system.
Gastrologist - Are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of the gastric area or the stomach.
Geriatrician - Are physicians who specialize in the care of older adults and provide health care for elderly. They aim to promote health and to prevent and treat diseases and disabilities in older adults.
Gynecologist - Are physicians who specialize in the treatment of female disorders (primarily of the reproductive system). They perform pelvic examinations and Pap smears for early detection of cancer.
Hematologist - Are physicians who specialize in blood and its diseases.
Hepatologist - Are physicians who study and treat diseases of the liver.
Immunologist - Are physicians who are involved in elderly health care and study all aspects of the immune system and treat diseases of the immune system.
Infectious Disease Specialist - Is a sub-specialty of Internal Medicine. Infectious disease doctors deal with problems like the swine flu, bird flu, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.
Internal Medicine Specialist - Are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of general medical disorders of adults such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, emphysema, and cancer.
Internist - Are physicians who focus on adult medicine and have completed a special study related to the prevention and treatment of adult diseases.
Nephrologist - Are physicians who treat kidney diseases and prescribe dialysis for patients whose kidneys fail to function.
Neurologist - Are physicians who specialize in diseases of the nervous system. They are experts in diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They diagnose and treat conditions such as seizures, stroke and conditions that may affect speech, movement and cognitive abilities.
Neurosurgeon - Are surgeons who treat central and peripheral nervous system diseases that can be cured or controlled to some extent with mechanical intervention.
Oncologist - Are physicians who are involved in elderly health care and specialize in treating individuals with cancer.
Opthalmologist - Are physicians who treat the eye for medical and surgical problems.
Orthopedic Surgeon - Are surgeons who specialize and perform surgeries that involve the skeletal system of the human body.
Otolaryngologist - Are also known as otorhinolaryngologists and usually referred to as E.N.T.s which means "Ear, Nose, and Throat" specialist. They are physicians who treat sinus problems, allergies, head and neck cancers, among others.
Pathologist - Are physicians who work in laboratories inside hospitals or at other locations. When other doctors order diagnostic tests for their patients - such as blood samples or biopsies - it is the pathologist who analyzes and interprets those tests. Some pathologists specialize in performing examinations, or autopsies, on people who have died.
Physiatrist - Are physicians who are involved in elderly health care and specialize in medicine and rehabilitation. They typically oversee rehabilitation programs.
Plastic Surgeon - Are physicians who perform cosmetic surgery to repair skin and structural problems.
Podiatrist - Are physicians who specialize in the care of the foot. They deal with foot disorders such as bunions, plantar warts, ingrown toenails, deformities such as club foot and trauma to the foot and related areas. They are often involved with health care for the elderly regarding foot care. They can also treat sprains, fractures and other injuries to the foot.
Psychiatrist - Are physicians who diagnose and treat patients with mental disorders.
Pulmonologist - Are physicians who diagnose and treat lung conditions and treatments and even manage critical care patients admitted in the ICU and those that require ventilator support.
Radiologist - Are physicians that specialize in the medical use of X-rays or other imaging technologies for diagnoses and treatment of disease.
Rheumatologist - Are physicians who treat arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.
Surgeon - Are physicians who perform surgery which is an invasive form of medical treatment. It involves cutting of a part of the body to remove a diseased organ or to repair a tear or breakage.
Urologists - Are physicians who specialize in the urinary system and treat urinary tract infections.
Rehabilitation therapists are common in providing elderly health care. Many seniors spend some time with rehabilitation therapists after surgery or illness. Sometimes at the hospital but also at skilled nursing facilities, in the seniors home and also at outpatient clinics in the community.
Occupational Therapists - They promote elderly health care by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful occupations. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. They take into consideration physical, environmental, psychosocial, mental, spiritual, political and cultural factors to identify barriers to performing tasks/activities/occupations.
Physical Therapists - They assess and provide treatment to individuals to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. This includes providing treatment in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors, which is not uncommon in health care and elderly.
Speech Language Pathologists - They focus on human communication including speech (articulation, intonation, rate, intensity, voice, resonance, fluency), language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics), both receptive and expressive language (including reading and writing), and non-verbal communication such as facial expression, posture and gesture. They also focus on swallowing problems in the oral and pharyngeal stages and sometimes esophageal stages of swallowing which can often be a problem in elderly health care.
There are many types of nurses involved in elderly health care, including:
Nurse Practitioner - They are registered nurses who have specialized training and education which allows them to carry out many tasks normally performed by a physician. Such tasks include diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries. Some states also allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions when providing health care for elderly.
Registered Nurse - They work in almost all areas of elderly health care. They perform many tasks that include: administering treatments such as medications, performing certain medical procedures, monitoring vital signs, advising and supporting patients, educating patients about medical conditions, and keep families up-to-date on a patient's status. They can also specialize in certain medical areas.
Certified Nurse Assistant - They are also known as nurses' aides, patient care technicians, home health aides, and home health assistants. They are employed in a number of health care settings including: hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, and adult living homes. They perform a number of duties that include: monitoring health such as recording a patients temperature, pulse, and respiration, helping patients eat, bathe, and dress, helping patients walk, keeping patients rooms in order, providing nutritious meals, answering patients' call bells, and making beds. They may also help patients to exam rooms and even assist with simple procedures. They report to a Registered Nurse.
Licensed Practical Nurse - Although Licensed Practical Nurses have less training than Registered Nurses, they are employed in all areas of health care. They work in hospitals, nursing homes, and medical clinics. LPNs perform such duties as monitoring a patient's overall condition, giving injections, recording vital signs, and applying dressings. During health care for elderly, they also assist patients with personal hygiene and report any treatment reactions.
Critical Care Nurse - They work with seriously injured and ill patients in the hospital. This type of nurse works in the ICU (intensive care unit) or CCU (critical care unit).
Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They are very common in elderly health care as many seniors take multiple medications.
They can also advise their patients, physicians, and other health care professionals on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. They can also monitor the health and progress of patients to ensure that they are using their medications safely and effectively.
For more information on medication management for elderly: Elderly Medication
Social workers assist seniors by helping them cope with and solve issues in their everyday lives, such as family and personal problems and dealing with relationships.
They are actively involved in providing health care for elderly by helping seniors who face a disability, life-threatening disease, social problem, such as inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse.
They can also assist families that have serious domestic conflicts, sometimes involving child or spousal abuse.
Some important elderly health care tips to ensure your aging parents health is properly managed:
Visit Your Family Physician Regularly - As we age, our risk factors for many diseases increase. Elderly health care is not just about treatment but also early detection as it can make a critical difference in the seniors prognosis.
Exercise Regularly - Regular exercise can reduce risk factors. Seniors and people of all ages should engage in regular physical activity, preferably twenty to thirty minutes per day, in order to stay healthy.
For more information: Exercises for the Elderly.
Eat Well - Eating a healthy diet is a critical aspect of preventative health care for seniors. It is best to avoid red meat and fatty dairy. Instead, choose lean cuts of meat and vegetable proteins. Women should pay particular attention to eating foods that are rich in Calcium and Vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis.
For more information: Elderly Nutrition.
Stop Smoking - Quitting smoking is a great thing to do for your health. When it comes to preventative health care, it's one of the most important things you can do. Smoking greatly increases your risk for various cancers and heart diseases and quitting can reduce those risks.
Have Your Cholesterol Tested - Having your cholesterol checked can help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Determining if you have high cholesterol can be critical in assessing your risk for heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women.
Have An Annual Mammogram - Women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every year and seniors should continue this approach. Breast cancer is a major cause of death for women and early detection can be critical in fighting the illness.
Have An Annual Prostate Exam - Once senior males reach age fifty, they should have an annual prostate exam that includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The prognosis for men with prostate cancer is best if it is detected early.
Colorectal Cancer Screening - Men and women over the age of fifty should have annual fecal-occult blood tests, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every four years, and a colonoscopy every two years. Depending on your specific risk factors, your physician may order these preventative health care procedures more frequently.
Diabetes Screening - Everyone should be screened for diabetes after age 45 and continuing into their senior years. Many seniors do not know if they have diabetes which puts them at risk for a variety of elderly health care conditions. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
For more information: Elderly Diabetes.
Have Your Blood Pressure Tested - Your blood pressure should be regularly checked by your physician as high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. It is an important part of health care for elderly and your aging parents blood pressure should be checked at a minimum of once every two years, but the physicians may check it more often based on your parents specific risk factors and family history.
For more information: Hypertension in the Elderly.