Lack of geriatric doctors could create crisis

Lack of geriatric doctors could create crisis (Image 1)

An associate professor at Duke University said a crisis is on the horizon as there is a significant shortage of doctors specializing in geriatric care.

Dr. Heather Whitson said the population is aging at a rate that has never been seen in the past.

On Changingaging.org, Dr. Bill Thomas said there should be one certified geriatrician for every 300 citizens. But in 2013, that ratio was 1:870.

The U.S. needs more than 20,000 certified geriatricians to serve the population that is 85 years old or older. In 2012, there were only 7,356, Thomas said.

Not only is the population aging but many have medical issues.

“When you’re dealing with an older adult that has five, six, seven, maybe more chronic conditions, if we treat every disease as aggressively and thoroughly as we possibly can, we’re going to harm the patient,” Whitson said.

Couples like the Maynors depend on geriatric doctors like Whitson to keep a grip on their issues.

Louis Maynor said her husband suffers from ailments like prostate cancer, hypertension and cholesterol problems.

“If he has difficulties that have to do with a lack of coordination, or any of the aging systems, the geriatrician can identify that immediately,” she said.

Her husband, Waltz, is 82 and believes a team of geriatric doctors is essential to his health.

“The geriatric team seems to have a better grip on everything,” he said.

Whitson believes one reason there is a shortage of geriatrists is because it is not financially stable or lucrative.

The specialty requires years of extra training but ultimately earns less because Medicare or Medicaid simply does not pay as much.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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