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Geriatric care can benefit you in your golden years

November 27, 2018

Jowella Pineda, M.D.

Jowella Pineda, M.D. is a graduate of the Geriatrics fellowship program of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is a board-certified geriatrician. She sees patients at the NCH Medical Group at Lutheran Home practice at 800 W. Oakton Street in Arlington Heights. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for scheduled and walk-in appointments, serving residents of Luther Village and Lutheran Home as well as the outlying community.

What is a geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a physician with specialized training for assessing, diagnosing and treating older adults. Research shows that 30 percent of people older than 65 years old need care from a geriatrician. As of 2017, there were around 7,200 certified geriatricians in the United States, with only 300 practicing in Illinois.

What do geriatricians do?

A geriatrician is trained to help patients navigate the changes that occur with aging. We manage geriatric syndromes such as falls, incontinence, memory problems and side effects from taking multiple medications. We help older adults maintain their function by evaluating their living situation to offer modifications or services that can make home life both easier and safer. We also discuss advanced care planning and end-of-life issues with patients and their families.

What are some changes that happen with age?

Clearly, changes are inevitable with aging, but the rate and impact of these changes vary widely for people of the same chronological age. Changes in the senses that occur with age affect how patients perceive and interact with their environment. Physiological changes in the different systems of the body can affect how the older patient responds to medications, so extra care is needed.

What are some geriatric syndromes?

A geriatrician can detect if a patient is suffering from incontinence, insomnia, delirium, dementia, osteoporosis and weight loss. Memory disorder, for example, is one of the primary reasons for seeing a specialist. We can help distinguish between normal aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

When should people see a geriatrician?

Aside from experiencing the effects of these changes associated with aging, here are some questions that may guide you in determining whether you should see a geriatrician:

  1. Are you concerned that your medical problems may not be part of the normal aging process?
  2. Do you want advice on how to stay healthy later in life?
  3. Do you feel as though your health problems are getting in the way of living a fulfilling life?

What can patients expect from a geriatric consultation?

We perform a functional assessment, part of which is getting a self-report and evaluation from a caregiver or family member on how well patients do the basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and functional mobility. We also assess more complex skills needed to live independently, such as managing finances and taking medications accurately. If needing assistance in these activities, we can intervene through referrals to physical therapy or recommending tools to enhance independence and safety, such as mobility aids and equipment in the home. For complex skills, we review if these tasks may be better delegated to others.

We conduct a thorough review of medications to prevent drug interactions. A thorough physical examination is done, with focus on cognitive skills and gait testing when needed. We also review age-appropriate screening tests for disease prevention and healthcare maintenance.

Learn more about the NCH Medical Group at Lutheran Home. Call 847-754-3170 to make an appointment with Dr. Pineda. Lutheran Home offers patients free valet service and a free shuttle runs on the hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays for residents of Luther Village.