Primary Care from a Geriatric Specialist: Meeting the Needs of Older Adults

Date: Sep 13, 2022

As we age, our health is likely to change. Our senses, mobility and short-term memory may decline. And most of us will have at least one chronic health condition. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports more than two-thirds of older adults will have two or more chronic health conditions in their geriatric years.

Because your health changes, your health care needs do, too. Just as children benefit from health care providers with special training and interest in caring for kids, older adults can benefit from providers who specialize in caring for geriatric patients. Emory Healthcare is proud to offer primary care providers (PCPs) who include geriatric care in their practice. They understand the challenges you face as you age, and they have the expertise and compassion to help guide you through them.

“Older adults have a special place in my heart,” says Kristine Ortega-Fonte, MD, a geriatric fellowship-trained family medicine physician with Emory at Acworth – Primary Care. 

Care as Your Health Care Needs Change

Your PCP is the place to turn for any non-emergency health care need. These providers build a relationship with you over time. They get to know what’s most important to you. And having someone on your side who understands your priorities can be especially valuable when you are making decisions about your health and treatment options as your health changes.

“I like being an advocate for my patients, getting to know them and their culture, their personality and values,” says Eunmi Hur, MD, a family medicine physician with Emory at Mountain Park – Primary Care. “I want to build a trusting relationship over time so I can help them with their decisions, large and small. It’s so rewarding to help my patients have the best quality of life.”

You can count on your PCP to:

  • Deliver preventive care, such as flu shots and health screenings for high blood pressure, cancer and other conditions
  • Diagnose and treat common acute conditions, like sore throats, sinus infections or stomach bugs
  • Help you manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease
  • Offer referrals to Emory Healthcare’s extensive network of specialists when you need more targeted care
  • Provide education on wellness and healthy living

Benefits of Geriatric-Focused Care

A PCP with a focus or interest in geriatrics may do even more for you. They can offer guidance on dealing with issues that arise with getting older, like vision or muscle loss, to minimize impacts on your everyday activities. They also know what symptoms to watch for in older adults and can connect dots that are easy to overlook. For example, the confusion that some people dismiss as “old age” could be a sign of pneumonia or a urinary tract infection in an older person. A provider with an interest in geriatrics understands the unique disease presentations and care needs of older adults and has the expertise to address common aging-related conditions effectively.

Because older adults often have several medical conditions, they frequently take many medications, sometimes prescribed by different providers. Medicines may interact, and some act differently in older adults than younger people. Falls are often linked to medication use. What’s more, while treating one condition, certain medications may cause another condition to develop or worsen.

PCPs who understand geriatric care can make sure their patients are getting the best medicines without overmedication

“I’m a big believer in using lifestyle to promote health and wellness, and in many cases, I feel that less is more when it comes to medication,” says Mary Stout, MD, an internal medicine physician with Emory Clinic – 158 W. Ponce de Leon Ave.

“I’m a big believer in using lifestyle to promote health and wellness, and in many cases, I feel that less is more when it comes to medication,”

Improving Quality of Life with Palliative Care

Living with chronic medical conditions, such as heart failure or cancer, as many older adults do, can be another challenge of aging. So, providers who offer geriatric care often emphasize palliative care to help manage symptoms while allowing you to live with your illnesses. Sometimes confused with hospice care, palliative care focuses on reducing symptoms and is available to anyone living with a serious illness, whether it’s immediately life-threatening or not. It’s often best delivered or coordinated by a provider who understands you and what matters most to you in life. For many people, that’s their geriatric-focused PCP. These providers team up with you and support all your health needs.

“I encourage you to be involved in your care, and I will be your biggest cheerleader as you work to make changes in your health,” says Dr. Ortega-Fonte.

Find a Provider

Emory Healthcare offers a wide range of primary care services. With the variety of backgrounds, interests and experiences our providers have, you’re sure to find one who’s a good match for you.

For help finding a primary care provider, call 404-778-7777, or view our primary care providers online.

For help finding a primary care provider.

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