Geriatricians are doctors that specialize in treating seniors and helping them to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Geriatricians usually have their initial training in family medicine or internal medicine. The specialization of a geriatrician should include:
- Additional knowledge of the the aging process and its effects on various systems of the body
- Illness patterns of aging
- Drug therapy- especially polypharmacy and potential adverse interactions
- Maintaining health and independent function
- Rehabilitation and convalescent time frames which generally increase with patient’s age
- Options in the areas of assisted or extended care
- Memory issues
- Depression-helping seniors to feel less isolated
- Increasing risk of falls and their associated injuries
Geriatricians should be able to address a progressive decline of several systems that typically happens in an aging body. Some of these include the kidneys and waste eliminating abilities, nervous function (eyesight, hearing, balance, cognitive), respiratory and immune function. With increasing age also comes the increase of cancer developing from DNA-accumulated damage over a lifetime. If surgical procedures are necessary for whatever reason, seniors are at greater risk for post surgical complications- often due to decreases in immune system function at fighting off infection. Procedures will often mean longer healing and care time for seniors.
Legal issues that geriatricians encounter more often than other doctors is making sure that informed consent has been given. They must be able to determine if their patients still have the cognisance to understand what care or treatment is needed and why. And if a patient can no longer make medical decisions for themselves, then the geriatrician must be in communication with the person responsible, for example, a relative with power of attorney or advance medical directives. Other legal matters geriatricians are often faced with:
- Elder abuse
- DNR (do not resuscitate) orders
- End of life issues
Doctors make mistakes just like anyone else. The area of provider error where mistakes are most prevalent, be they a geriatrician or ANY type of doctor, is with medication. Often seniors are on more medications than persons of a younger age (polypharmacy). If seniors do not disclose to their doctor all medications that they are taking, even supplements, then the risk for adverse drug reactions is present. Also, at times, patients will have disclosed their medications and supplements- but the doctor is responsible for reviewing and knowing that patients medical history to prevent contraindications and possible bad interactions between multiple drugs. Other types of medication errors that can happen are the wrong medication prescribed, the right medication but the wrong dosage.
Some patients make the assumption that doctors are infallible or know best and do not question procedures or treatments. This leaves room for providers to reccommend unnecessary treatments or surgeries. Another possibility of provider negligence can be the doctor simply failing to treat an actual problem or misdiagnosing if they view the patient as a hypochondriac.
If you believe that yourself or a loved one suffered a worsening of a medical condition or a death under the care of a geriatrician, you may be eligible for damages. Contact the Sweeney Law Firm so we can review the facts. You may have a geriatric medical provider malpractice case. If we accept your case, there is no cost for representation unless a settlement or fund recovery is made on your behalf.