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When to See a Geriatrician

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Dear Inquiring,

If your mom is dealing with a variety of health problems and is taking multiple medications, a visit to a geriatrician may be just the antidote to help get her back on track. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of health conditions geriatricians treat and some tips to help you locate one in your area.

 

Geriatric Doctors

For starters, it’s important to know that geriatricians are family practice or internal medicine physicians that have had additional specialized training to manage the unique and, oftentimes, multiple health concerns of older adults. Just as a pediatrician specializes in caring for children, a geriatrician is trained to provide care for seniors, usually over age 65.

While most doctors, and even general practitioners, are trained to focus on a person’s particular illness or disease, geriatricians are trained to look at all aspects that can affect elderly patients – not just the physical symptoms. They also often work with a team of other health care professionals like geriatric-trained nurses, rehabilitation therapists, nutritionists, social workers and psychiatrists to provide care. And, they will coordinate treatments among a patient’s specialists.

Patients who can benefit from seeing a geriatrician are elderly seniors with multiple health and age-related problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, confusion and memory problems, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic pain, mobility issues, incontinence, vision and hearing impairment, and trouble with balance and falls.

Geriatricians are also particularly adept at tackling medication problems. Because many seniors, like your mom, take multiple medications at the same time for various health conditions, and because aging bodies often absorb and metabolize drugs differently than younger adults, unique side effects and drug interactions are not uncommon. A geriatrician will evaluate and monitor you mom’s medications to be sure they are not affecting her in a harmful way.

Geriatricians can also help their patients and families determine their long-term care needs, like how long they can remain in their own homes safely without assistance, and what type of services may be necessary when they do need some extra help.

But not all seniors need to see a geriatrician. Seniors who have few health problems are just fine seeing their primary care physician.

Find a Geriatrician

Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of geriatricians in the U.S., so depending on where you live, finding one may be challenging. To locate one in your area, visit the American Board of Family Medicine website at theabfm.org where you can do a search online. Or use Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Just go to medicare.gov/physiciancompare and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type in “Geriatric Medicine” in the “What are you searching for?” box. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Keep in mind, though, that locating a geriatrician doesn’t guarantee your mom will be accepted as a patient. Many doctors already have a full patient roster and don’t accept any new patients. You’ll need to call the individual doctor’s office to find out. 

 

 

How to Help Seniors with their

Computer Issues from Far Away

 

Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any computer software products that you know of that will let me help my parents with their computer issues from afar? They are in their seventies and frequently call me with their computer questions and problems, but I live across town and don’t always have time to get in the car and drive over to help them. What’s available that can help us?

Weary Son

 

Dear Weary,

Helping an elder loved with their computer questions or problems over the phone can be frustrating and difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available today that offer remote access software that can easily help you assist your parents with their computer issues from afar.

One of the best is TeamViewer, which is completely free to use and works with Windows and Macintosh computers.

To get started, you and your parents will need to go to TeamViewer.com and install their free software on each of your computers. How-to videos are available on their site to help with the installation.

Once installed – and with their permission – you will be able to access your parent’s computer right from your own computer wherever you are. Both machines must have broadband Internet for this to work.

This software will give you the ability to actually see what’s appearing on your parent’s computer screen, and will let you remotely take charge of their computer so you can show them how to do something, or you can do it for them while they watch. Almost anything can be done remotely with this software. You can even keep a live video chat open at the same time you’re helping them.

If your interested in shopping around, some other free remote access programs worth a look include Chrome Remote Desktop (go to chrome.google.com/webstore and type in “Chrome Remote Desktop” in the “Search the store” box to find it), and SkyFex (skyfex.com), which works only with Windows.

Skype also has a screen share feature (see skype.com/en/features/screen-sharing) that lets you share your screen and video chat at the same time, but you can’t actually take control of the other person’s computer. You can only show them what they should be doing by demonstrating it on your own desktop.

Professional Tech Support

If your parents need more tech support than you are able to manage, another option to consider is to sign them up with a tech support company like Geek Squad (geeksquad.com, 800-433-5778), which also offers remote access capabilities to help your parents with almost any computer issue.

Whenever they would need assistance, they could call the Geek Squad toll free number anytime, 24 hours a day, or log in to their website. A Geek Squad representative would then help them initiate a remote access session, so they could remotely show them how to do something, or make repairs or adjustments to their computer. Once the call is completed, the remote control access would be disconnected from your parent’s computer.

In addition to the remote access help, Geek Squad tech support also offers free anti-virus software, they cover up to three computers (or other devices), and provide unlimited phone and in-person tech support at any Best Buy store. Costs range from $200 for one year, $280 for two years or $350 for three years, with a 15 percent discount available to AARP members.

Editor's Note: Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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