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Division of Geriatric Medicine Chief and Center for Aging and Health Director Dr. Jan Busby-Whitehead talks about the ways that seeing a geriatrician can benefit older patients and their families.

Geriatricians take a holistic view of the patient. We provide complex comprehensive care that is focused on the functional activities of daily living. A patient’s chronological age is not important, their functional age is what matters. What can people do, and what do they still want to do?

Geriatricians are general sub-specialists. We do not focus on one organ system, rather, we look at the integrated organ systems with an understanding of how the workings of the brain interact with the workings of the body. We also pay attention to the patient’s life outside the clinic and their functional capabilities.

We get to know the patient and their family and this is important for older patients. Often for older patients, family involvement is critical to understanding their function. That’s a relationship that the Geriatrician is comfortable with. It’s not just the patient we work with but the extended family.

Geriatricians provide primary care, and because we are specialists, we can address issues related to all the organ systems. But should the patient need expertise in one particular organ system, Geriatricians are the coordinators of care. If our patient goes to the cardiologist, we’re aware of what is going on and making sure the cardiologist does not treat the patient in a vacuum, and that the medications prescribed for the procedure will not impact the kidney or the heart or the lungs.

We’re always keeping an eye on the big picture. We’re the big picture doctors.