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The need of a geriatrician

Contributor: Ana Pessoa

Origin/affiliation: Internal Medicine Specialist, Centro Hospitalar do Médio Ave, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal

The World’s population is ageing. While that is a welcoming sign of improving health care and living conditions, it also contributes to shaping the demographics of our patients. Because if you wouldn’t take you child to an internal medicine doctor, is it really the same whether you take your grandfather to a geriatrician or not?

Unfortunately, geriatrics is not a worldwide specialty. In Portugal, where I work, it doesn’t exist. However, there is a growing awareness of its importance, with the recent development of geriatric clinics, orthogeriatric units and pre and postgraduate courses. In 2014, a Competence in Geriatrics was created by the Portuguese Medical Board. Even so, the ageing of our patients puts a strain on our healthcare system and on our society. We are walking towards an increasing number of older patients with chronic conditions needing ongoing ambulatory support that often fails them. They then have to go to the emergency department, which is designed to quickly stabilize and discharge or admit patients, not to comprehensively assess the patient together with their caregivers, identify their needs and provide ongoing support. The holistic philosophy of the comprehensive geriatric assessment is urgently needed in order to fully respond to the needs of our older patients.

Two years ago, I was very fortunate to spend 3 months doing an internship in Geriatrics in Oxford. I learned a lot. The philosophy behind taking care of our elderly is something that every doctor should understand. Because no; it is really not the same whether you take your grandfather to a geriatrician or not.

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