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Shortage of geriatricians: What does this really mean? AMY GENSON, MS

If we’ve learned nothing else during our time together, we know that Americans are living longer lives than ever. We’re taking better care of ourselves, and modern medicine is helping to combat disease and keep us healthier. People know what the term, “centenarian” means. We’ve come a long way. All signs point to a continuation of the trend. Here’s another way to see it: by the year 2030, one-fifth of all people in this country will be eligible for Medicare.

That’s less than 15 years from now.

But even this extraordinary news can present some menacing problems – if not today, then down the road – if certain issues are not addressed soon. Among them, the shortage of geriatricians available to treat the elderly.

US News and World Report states that there are less 8,000 physicians who specialize in geriatric health currently practicing. But it is estimated that 17,000 geriatricians are needed to adequately care for 12 million seniors.

Geriatricians are specially trained to focus on social and psychological issues that concern the elderly, even more so than the average physician. Their extra attention and care can mean a world of difference for your favorite senior requiring medical treatment. But while the senior population is rapidly increasing, the number of geriatricians is not. One of the reasons is salary: according to the New York Times, the average geriatrician makes less than half of what a cardiologist does. And though becoming a geriatrician requires an extra two years of education than what is required to become an internist, the former makes an average of $20,000 less.

Geriatricians who leave the profession are often not replaced. Hospitals instead opt to bring aboard internists. But this can leave a visible hole in the care of patients who suffer from dementia, which is more prevalent in elderly adults.

To administer proper care, an interdisciplinary team that includes specialists, nurses, therapists, social workers and geriatric care managers is commonly enlisted. In the past, a geriatrician was commonly part of that group. But as that scenario dwindles, some nurses, therapists and the like are opting to receive more specialized training to help bridge the gap in treatment of the elderly.

Another thing that you and I have learned in our time together is that knowledge is power. If the above trend continues, it will become especially imperative to keep ourselves aware of issues, symptoms, and healthcare options that our elderly parents have, so that we can work with those providing treatment to ensure the best possible outcomes and the highest quality of life during the increased years our parents will likely have ahead of them.

There is so much to think about when entering the later stages of life. If you are considering elder care options, we at Genson Geriatrics Management can help. Our professional staff specializes in assisting you to choose the right kind of care for your loved one.

We conduct regular check-ins when you are unable to do so. Genson Geriatrics Management also provides oversight and detailed feedback to the family to keep your loved one safe and well-cared for day or night, weekday or weekend, holiday and every day.

We have the resources. We can hold your hand. We can guide you. Your peace of mind is our main goal, and is well assured. To find out more, call us at 805-750-4755 or visit our website and sign up for our monthly newsletter:


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