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Just as a pediatrician specializes in the care of children, a geriatrician specializes in the care of older adults. As we age, our bodies’ physiology changes, we react differently to medications, and we often experience chronic illnesses or impairments that threaten our independence. A geriatrician is specially trained to recognize and treat syndromes unique to older adults and provide resources and education to enable them to maintain healthy lives.
There is no specific age but most patients who elect a geriatrician as their primary care physician are 75 years of age or older. Often patients who benefit the most from the services of a geriatrician have chronic illnesses, impaired physical function, impaired memory or cognitive function, depression or anxiety, weight loss, problems with balance or recurrent falls, and/or urinary incontinence. They may be taking multiple medications. They may be neglecting themselves or making poor decisions about their health and safety. They may be at risk for mistreatment or exploitation.
Yes. A geriatrician is a specialist and, after assessing you, will give you recommendations that you may take to your primary care or family doctor. The geriatrician can also become your primary care physician, if that is your choice.
You should plan to arrive early for your first appointment in order to acquaint yourself with the parking and building. You may also have to complete some paperwork. You should bring all your medicine containers and your medical records, if you have any. Please bring a written record of your health history (past illnesses, surgeries, procedures, allergies, etc.) and current insurance information. You should plan to spend at least 2 hours at your initial appointment.
Your physician or nurse practitioner will do a cognitive screening during the assessment and may refer you to the Brain Health Clinic at the Center for Healthy Aging.
ACE means Acute Care for Elders. An ACE unit is a unit of a hospital that is specially designed for the comfort and safety of older adults. A hospitalization can be a little easier for an older adult if the hospital has considered the physical, visual, cognitive, and memory impairments that many older adults experience. For example, on the ACE unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, floors in the rooms are laminated hardwood to reduce the glare of tile, windows have glare-resistant shades, bathrooms have well-positioned grab bars, the shower accommodates a shower chair, and the toilet seat is black (providing a contrast to the white toilet). All these are safety features that reduce the risk of falls.