Geriatrics was my first rotation as an intern. The feedback that I got from some of my friends whom are doing residency here in the states was that it is an easy rotation to start with, and that it will help me to smoothly blend into the “residency” lifestyle. Although this was true, none of them mentioned how important “Geriatric medicine” is, and should be, to our future practice as physicians.
By 2030, the percentage of people >65 years old will be around 20% of the general population here in the US, that means one in every fiver of our patients. With this, comes the need that every physician should know the common health problems that are unique in this age group. Things that we do not pay attention to in our general patient population, like the number of stories in the patient’s house, might pose a major health risk for an elderly patient living alone.
When I look back now at my first month, I can say that I am thankful that Geriatrics was my first rotation. With the help of highly passionate attendings and fellows, I learnt how that with the elderly patient, there should be different approaches to the medical encounter compared to younger patients. Asking simple questions about their daily lifestyle, habits, fun things they do, (things we do not usually focus a lot on), will give us tremendous details about the risks and the possible interventions that we could do to improve the quality of life of our elderly patients.
I will not say that I will miss searching for information about my patients in the “huge” paper charts in the nursing homes I went to, but I definitely will miss learning from physicians whom practicing medicine for them is not only about diagnosing and prescribing medications, but rather, taking a further step into analyzing the psycho-social dynamics of the diseases that an elderly patient have and trying to work on addressing these issues in the same level of importance as their diseases’ pathophysiology and treatment.