Geriatrician/Geriatric Medicine Doctor

Geriatric medicine doctors (geriatricians) specialize in caring for older adults, especially those over age 65 with complex medical needs. They diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments and talk to you about your care preferences. Most geriatricians are internal medicine or family physicians with advanced training in caring for aging adults.


What is a geriatric medicine doctor?

A geriatric medicine doctor, also called a geriatrician, is a physician who specializes in caring for the medical needs of older adults. They diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that can happen as you get older. They talk to you about your personal goals for your care and tailor treatment to your unique preferences and needs.

Geriatricians are internal medicine or family medicine physicians with additional training in geriatric medicine. They may work at a hospital as part of a center for geriatric medicine or they may work in a private practice. Some provide care at long-term care facilities or rehabilitation facilities. A geriatrician is a specific type of gerontologist (a professional who supports the health and well-being of older adults).


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What does a geriatric medicine doctor do?

Geriatricians view you as a whole person. They evaluate all of your needs, including your physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. They use this information to guide treatments and recommendations. Here are some specific tasks your geriatric medicine doctor might do for you:

  • Diagnose medical conditions.
  • Prescribe medications and other treatments.
  • Keep an eye on any side effects you’re experiencing from medications and change your prescriptions as needed. 
  • Discuss with you the benefits and risks of treatments, including surgery.
  • Work with other healthcare providers to tailor care to your needs.
  • Refer you to specialists to manage conditions like cancer or issues with brain function.
  • Discuss your daily functioning with you and help you decide when to make changes. For example, they might advise you on when it’s no longer safe for you to drive or live alone.
  • Help you and your family manage advance directive planning.

Geriatricians understand each person is different. Someone with your exact same medical conditions might have different preferences for the care they receive or how they live day to day. Some people prioritize independence above all else. Others prefer knowing someone is with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help them as needed. Some people want to take fewer medications or avoid surgery, while others want to try any and all available treatments.

Geriatric medicine doctors talk to you about what you want most and how to achieve those goals. They also discuss with you alternatives when your top preferences might not be possible or safe for you. They’ll involve your loved ones in these conversations and help you feel as comfortable as possible with your care plan.

What is a geriatric care team?

A geriatric care team is a group of healthcare providers, including geriatricians, who work together to provide care to aging adults. They evaluate your needs and provide treatment for a wide range of health conditions that can affect your body and mind.

Besides geriatric medicine doctors, other team members may include:

Not everyone has access to a geriatrician or a geriatric care team. Depending on where you live and your healthcare plan, you may instead work with a primary care provider (like a physician or nurse practitioner) who has advanced training in caring for older adults.

At what age should you see a geriatrician?

Most people start seeing a geriatric medicine doctor after age 65, and especially over age 75. But it depends on your medical history and needs. Some centers for geriatric medicine start working with people after they turn 50. This might feel early. But early attention to health issues connected with aging can help you manage risk factors and prevent many chronic conditions.

Over 50% of adults age 65 or above have at least three medical conditions that require monitoring and/or treatment. When you have multiple conditions, your medical care becomes more complicated. This is when a geriatrician can step in to help.

For example, a geriatrician can make sure you’re safely taking different medications without dangerous interactions. They also weigh the pros and cons of different treatments, like surgery, that may pose greater risks at age 70 versus age 40.

Internal medicine doctors and family physicians can often help in similar ways. And you’ll likely still work with your primary care physician alongside consultations with a geriatric medicine doctor. But geriatric medicine doctors add insight and expertise to your care. They specialize in caring for older adults, especially those with complex medical needs. These include conditions affecting the body as well as the mind. So, they’ve seen it all and are prepared to help you no matter your situation. 

Should my loved one see a geriatrician?

Your loved one may benefit from consulting with a geriatrician if they’re:

  • Living with multiple medical conditions.
  • Taking multiple medications.
  • Having memory issues.
  • Having a tough time juggling appointments and treatments from several providers.
  • Hospitalized or recovering from a hospital stay.

If you’re their main caregiver, you might notice changes in your loved one that others don’t see. Your loved one might not even notice the changes themselves. It may be up to you to suggest meeting with a geriatrician. They can evaluate your loved one from all perspectives, including their mental health and social health. And they’ll develop a plan to support your loved one’s needs.


How can I find a geriatrician near me?

The Health in Aging Foundation website has a feature that allows you to search for geriatric health professionals in your state. You can use this tool to find a geriatric medicine doctor near you.

Additional Common Questions

How do I become a geriatrician?

To become a geriatrician, you must:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from a college or university, typically on the pre-med track.
  2. Earn a medical degree.
  3. Complete a residency program.
  4. Get a license to practice medicine, following the requirements specific to your state.
  5. Earn board certification, typically in internal medicine or family medicine.
  6. Complete a geriatric medicine fellowship program.

Some geriatricians choose to earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Geriatric Medicine. The American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine jointly offer an exam for earning this credential. 

A note from Cleveland Clinic

As the years go by, it’s easy to lose track of how you felt a few years ago, or even a few months ago. The days can all start to roll together, and subtle changes might fly under the radar. Geriatricians are experts in aging and the changes that come along with it. They’re prepared to help you navigate changes to your health with preventive care and treatments. 

If you don’t have access to a geriatric medicine doctor, it’s still important to see a physician regularly after you turn 50. Yearly checkups help you stay on top of risk factors for many chronic diseases. These checkups also give you a chance to raise questions and concerns and get the information you need to take an active role in your care.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/15/2024.

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