What are Geriatrics? And Why You Should Seek Out a Geriatric Provider Later in Life
Hola! This series of blog posts is focusing on healthy aging. As a 50-year-old myself, I am interested in how to stay healthy, active and happy as I age. As a registered pharmacist in the U.S. I also want to educate others on how to stay in control of their health, wellness and medications, especially as they age!
Thinking about this topic, I had a conversation with my good friend Dr. Veronica Riera-Gilley, who is a board certified geriatric pharmacist. We talked about a lot of very important topics during our conversation including:
- Geriatrics is a branch of medicine dedicated to the aging population, as pediatrics is to kids.
- Aging does not mean that you have to live in pain or uncomfortable, nor that you must take a lot of medications.
- Pharmacists don’t want to dispense drugs, we want to dispense education and health.
- Death is a sure thing; you might as well get prepared to make decisions that you don’t want others to make.
Let’s Talk About Geriatrics
Veronica decided to become a pharmacist after seeing her mother’s best friend suffer from severe side effects from medications after receiving a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. She explained that after seeking help from her doctor’s, her mother’s friend was told this was her new normal. She later decided to stop all her medications and shortly after died from suicide. A clinical pharmacist could have helped manage her side effects and later withdrawal symptoms.
That incident is why she chose a career in pharmacy, because she wants to be part of the solution to the health care system’s reliance on medications instead of trusting patients as the experts in their own bodies. She has been a pharmacist for 16 years and became board certified in geriatrics in 2016.
Geriatrics is health care tailored to an aging person. Just like babies and children see a specialist for their needs, a pediatrician, older and aging people can see a geriatric specialist that is trained to understand and meet the needs of an aging body.
Geriatric certified providers are trained to know how the body works as it ages and are also trained in areas like spiritual, emotional and family matters because those things are all interconnected when it comes to a person’s health, and aging healthy. Learning to talk about end of life planning is also a big part of geriatric training, but more on that later.
I was surprised to learn that Veronica started her career in geriatrics through yoga. She told me that she started taking yoga teacher training after receiving so much pain relief from yoga, and that as part of her training she had to give 8 community classes to be certified. During her time teaching she learned so much from the senior women she was teaching about yoga, pain relief and aging that she chose a new career path!
Pharmacists know that as bodies age they react to medications differently, which is why having a geriatric pharmacist can be so helpful. When someone is certified in geriatrics they are experts at treating aging people, I am a pharmacist and have an idea but I am not an expert in aging bodies like Veronica is.
Veronica says, and I totally agree with her, that even if you are taking one medication you need to have a relationship with a pharmacist, if you are on multiple medications you should seek out a geriatric pharmacist because they are the experts. Pharmacists will have the time go over every medication and possible interactions, something doctors don’t have time to do in their 15-minute exam windows.
I’m getting older and I want to be as healthy as possible, and the purpose of seeing a geriatric specialist is to keep you as healthy as possible, it isn’t signing a death sentence.
Choosing a geriatric provider just means you want someone that is more in tune with what is happening in your aging body because they have done that extra training, and will be someone who is going to be an advocate for you. I know for a fact that Veronica is awesome at what she does, that is she is compassionate and you would love to work with her. Contact her here.
Here you have 2 fabulous resources related to geriatrics:
If you want to hear the full conversation between Dr. Veronica Riera-Gilley, board-certified geriatric pharmacist and myself check out episode 10 of The Legal Drug Dealer Podcast
Or read Parts 2 and 3 in this series on Healthy Aging where we talk about why pain and drugs don’t have to be a normal part of aging and preparing for the inevitability of death. (links to the next two posts would go here).