Geriatric medicine

Geriatric medicine the branch of medicine concerned with all aspects of health and illness in older adults. It is the largest medical specialty.

This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.

Nature of the work

Geriatricians have an interesting and varied job which involves providing comprehensive medical care to older people, who may have may have several medical conditions and are often taking multiple medications. The work also involves promoting better health in old age.

Changes that occur as a result of ageing mean that older people have different patterns of disease presentation when compared to younger adults, and they respond to treatments and therapies in different ways.

Common problems faced by elderly people include falls with or without fracture, delirium, dementia, incontinence, poor mobility and frailty.

Geriatricians may work in a variety of hospital and community settings including:

Geriatricians provide a patient-centred, compassionate and holistic approach. They work very closely with GPs, other hospital doctors, social workers and many others involved in caring for elderly people including families and carers. Diagnosis and management of acute illness as well as chronic disease, disability and frailty is all part of the job.

Working very closely with other professionals in multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) is vital. With the integration of community care and health, NHS trusts work closely with community organisations to offer a joined-up service.

Providing rehabilitation after an illness is a key aspect of the work, and geriatricians will work with other team members to enable patients to work towards specific rehabilitation goals. Developing a good knowledge of physical treatments and adaptations and aids is important.

Another vital aspect of the role is enabling patients to be supported at home rather than being admitted to hospital and to enable those who have been in hospital to return home where possible. Planning the effective transfer of frail older patients from hospital can be complex and the geriatrician is closely involved in this process.

During training geriatricians need to develop competence in palliative or end of life care and planning, orthogeriatrics (medical care for people with orthopaedic trauma), old age psychiatry and specialist stroke care.

Older people may react differently to drugs and geriatricians need a comprehensive knowledge of adverse drug reactions, drug interactions and how these might be affected by different diseases.

Understanding the legal and ethical issues surrounding work with elderly people is important, including appointment of power of attorney, guardianship, mental health legislation and resuscitation.

Consultants are involved in the effective management of geriatric services and there are also ample opportunities for research.

There are also many opportunities to develop special interests within the specialty. These can be based around a particular stage in a person’s illness (known as temporal) or based around specific disease processes. Most geriatricians enjoy looking after a wide range of conditions.

“Every patient brings a different challenge and no two days are the same” Adam Gordon Consultant geriatrician and clinical professor in medicine of older people.

Read Adam’s story

Common procedures/interventions

These include:

Sub-specialties

Want to learn more?

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Other roles that may interest you

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