In Ageing America, Specialized Doctors in Senior Care are Rarer


Studies indicate that geriatricians are better at managing the care of elderly patients, although interest in the area is hampered by a number of issues.

Since her 30s, Pat Early, 66, has suffered from the autoimmune condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome. Her primary care physician has been managing her illness for a long time, but she now needs help from a stable of specialists, including rheumatologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, ophthalmologists, and others, to manage her exhaustion, muscle pain, and other consequences.

She started looking for a new physician when that one started reducing his staff, and she happened upon a geriatrician practice, which treats patients over 65. “It never even crossed my mind that that’s something I should be looking at,” Early remarked, not considering herself old. She is appreciative of the change, though.

“They said, ‘We want to have a personal relationship with you, and we want to stay with you until you die,’” Early said. They seemed deeply understanding of aging to end-of-life issues that older people and their families confront. “I feel so lucky because I know other people my age don’t have that.”

Over 65s account for over half of hospital admissions and use healthcare services at a higher rate than other age groups. However, the American Geriatrics Society reports that there are only 7,300 board-certified geriatricians in the country—less than 1% of all physicians. In contrast, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that over 60,000 pediatricians were in practice in 2021.

However, studies indicate that geriatricians treat elderly patients more skillfully and successfully than physicians without this training, which lowers the risk of inpatient mortality, shortens hospital stays, and lowers patient expenses. Currently, there is one geriatrician for every 10,000 elderly patients in the United States.

In late 2023, there were only 41.5% of geriatric medicine fellowship opportunities filled, compared to 43 percent in 2022. In the meantime, an approximate 40% increase in the population over 65 is predicted over the course of the next ten years.

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