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What Distinguishes a Gerontologist From a Geriatrician?

When it comes to elderly care, there are two types of medical professionals who are often confused with one another: gerontologists and geriatricians. They both work with elderly patients. But there are distinct differences between the two fields.

Geriatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the health and care of elderly people. It focuses on the unique problems and needs of aging. This includes frailty, dementia, and medications.

Gerontology, on the other hand, is the study of aging itself. It is a broad field that looks at the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging. There are several sub-fields in gerontology. Some examples include biogerontology, biomedical, environmental, and social gerontology.

But what exactly distinguishes a gerontologist from a geriatrician? Let’s take a look. But first, let’s understand the importance of senior healthcare professionals.

The Demand For Senior Healthcare Professionals

Per a survey, one out of every five U.S. citizens will be over 65 by 2050. This dramatic increase in the elderly population has increased the demand for senior healthcare professionals.

The aging population increases the risk of chronic diseases. Some of them include heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. There is also a higher incidence of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. The elderly are also more susceptible to accidents and falls.

All these factors have led to a greater need for trained primary health physicians and other professionals who can deal with the unique problems of the elderly. This is where gerontologists and geriatricians come in.

If you need the help of a senior healthcare professional, preferably a primary care doctor, you can do a simple “primary care dr near me” to find the best professionals in your area. You can find out about their experience, qualifications, and the type of services they offer. You can also book an appointment online from the comfort of your home.

Who Is a Gerontologist?

Who Is a Gerontologist
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A gerontologist is a scientist who studies aging and the problems associated with it. Their research can be divided into various categories:

Biogerontology

This involves the study of the biological process of aging. It also includes researching methods to intervene in the process. It looks at the link between aging and age-related diseases.

Environmental Gerontology

It consists of comprehending and streamlining the relationship between elderly people and their physical and social surroundings.

Biomedical Gerontology

This focuses on researching methods of slowing, preventing, and reversing the aging process. This field also looks at methods to improve the quality of life for the elderly.

Psychological Gerontology

It studies the psychological effects of aging. This includes changes in memory, behavior, and personality. It also looks at the psychological effects of age-related diseases.

Role and Responsibilities of a Gerontologist

The role of a gerontologist is to conduct research on aging and its associated problems. They use this research to develop interventions and policies. These can help improve the quality of life of the elderly.

They work with other professionals, such as medical researchers, nurses, and doctors, to provide care for the elderly. In some cases, they also provide direct care to patients. Gerontologists typically work in research centers, universities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Who Is a Geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a primary care doctor who specializes in the care of elderly patients. Geriatricians often work in hospitals or nursing homes, providing direct patient care. They may also work in outpatient clinics, where they see patients for regular checkups.

Geriatricians understand the aging process and the unique health needs of the elderly. Geriatricians focus mainly on the 5Ms; mind, mobility, multi-complexity, medications, and matters most.

Mind

This involves maintaining cognitive function and preventing or treating mental health issues such as dementia, depression, and delirium.

Mobility

This refers to maintaining physical independence and mobility. This includes preventing falls, managing pain, and improving impaired gait and balance.

Multi-complexity

This involves simultaneously managing many chronic conditions, such as complex biophysical situations. This can be especially challenging as patients age, and their health needs change.

Medications

This refers to managing the medications elderly patients are taking. This includes ensuring they take the right medications at the right dosages. It also involves monitoring for any adverse reactions.

Matters Most

This category includes each individual’s own health outcome goals and care preferences that are considered meaningful to them.

Role and Responsibilities of a Geriatrician

The role of a geriatrician is to provide direct patient care to the elderly. Geriatricians focus on the 5Ms

  • mind,
  • mobility,
  • multi-complexity,
  • medications, and
  • matters most, as discussed above.

They also work with other healthcare professionals, such as social workers, general practitioners, and nurses, to provide comprehensive care for their patients. Geriatricians may also conduct research on aging and the problems associated with it.

Key Differences Between a Gerontologist and a Geriatrician

Although geriatrics and gerontology are two different areas, they both aim to enhance the well-being of seniors. Geriatrics is the branch of medicine focused on older adults. On the other hand, gerontology studies all aspects of aging from many disciplines.

The training necessary for each field provides a clear example of this difference. To specialize in elderly care as a geriatrician, you must finish medical school. You then need to complete a residency focused on geriatrics. 

Unlike other professions, one is not required to take a specific path to become a gerontologist. Instead, professionals in this field come from many different backgrounds. Some common fields are psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, and medicine.

Although geriatrics and gerontology focus on aging, they study this phenomenon differently. Unlike geriatrics, which merely focuses on the individual, gerontology casts a broader net. Geriatrics study allows for a greater understanding of how the aging process works.

This, in turn, can help to treat age-related diseases. Gerontology studies aging from many perspectives. This helps us understand the aging process from social, psychological, and biological perspectives.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you understand the key differences between a gerontologist and a geriatrician. While both professions focus on aging, they study this phenomenon differently. If you have an aging loved one, you may want to consult with a geriatrician to ensure that they are receiving the best possible care.

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