Many changes occur as we get older in our years but when is it the right time to change doctors? Do we need a geriatrician? And how is a geriatrician different than our primary doctor? Join us in conversation with geriatrician Dr. Leslie Kernisan who will answer these questions and more. Enjoy the show!


Healthy aging is important to us and we want to be able to access all of the tools and resources that are available to us so that we can make the best possible decisions for our health and wellness. One resource that is often overlooked is the service of a geriatrician.

What is a Geriatrician?

Just as a pediatrician modifies medical treatment to best meet the needs of children, a geriatrician modifies medical treatment to best meet the needs of older adults. Because our bodies and our needs change in our later years, it is important to receive care specifically altered to meet those needs.

A geriatrician is trained to look at the big picture of an older adult’s life. They consider the multiple chronic illnesses that a person may be experiencing along with other factors such as mobility or memory issues as well as the level of family involvement each patient may have in his or her life. Geriatricians take a holistic approach to helping older adults achieve the highest quality of life that they possibly can.

When do I Need a Geriatrician?

Many family practitioners quite adequately treat patients from birth until death. However, just as many families choose to bring their children to a pediatrician for suitably modified care, some families may choose to send their older family members to a geriatrician for care specific to their age and needs.

Dr. Kernisan suggests that there are five factors that make geriatric care necessary as people get older.


The first sign that adults may need to see a geriatrician is that they start to feel vulnerable in their bodies or in the minds.

Maybe they start to notice they are falling more. Maybe they are not recovering from colds like they used to. These are all signs of the vulnerability that can occur later in life.

Multiple Chronic Illnesses

The second sign is multiple chronic illnesses.

For the best continuity of care, it’s important that someone experiencing multiple issues has one doctor coordinating and integrating the care of each specialist so that the patient is treated holistically, allowing each specialist’s care plans to supplement one another and not contradict each other.

Geriatric Syndromes

Third on the list is the so called geriatric syndromes.

Falls, depression, memory issues, isolation and incontinence fall on this list. While younger people may experience these situations, it is usually because of one underlying issue whereas when older adults experience these things, it may be multiple causes together causing these issues.

The good news is that geriatricians have developed approaches for treating these issues and have had great success in helping older adults with these geriatric syndromes.

Chronic Impairments

The fourth factor to consider is chronic impairments to a person’s body, mobility, or their mind.

When special adaptations need to be made to a person’s medical plan for these reasons, it may be best to work with a geriatrician to help the person adapt or compensate for their impairment so they can still thrive. Geriatricians are highly skilled in this area.

Family Members

The last factor on the list is family members. When a person’s health care becomes a family conversation, it’s a good sign that a geriatrician’s involvement may also be necessary.

This can happen to someone in their 50s who is experiencing a number of health issues or it may not occur for someone else until they are in their 90s and are just starting to show signs of vulnerability.

Geriatrics is a holistic approach to aging. When health issues, mobility issues, mental issues, or safety issues become a struggle, it is important that we reach out and get the help that is available to us. There is no need to suffer alone when valuable geriatric resources are accessible to us.

Have you or a loved one visited a geriatrician? Do you think it is important to see someone specifically trained in treating adults later in life? Do you reach out to your health care providers willingly or are you resistant to getting help? Please join in the conversation!

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