Why you may ask? Well I’m currently posted in Geriatrics (and will continue in this ward for the next 4-5 months) and before I was posted in this specialty, I naturally had all sorts of prejudices and thought I’d absolutely hate it like many other residents do. I mean the whole idea of having to deal day in and day out with old people with serious cognitive impairment doesn’t sound very exciting and fast paced compared to say, performing an invasive intervention with immediate results. I must say, I’ve been completely wrong. I have a lot of respect for Geriatricians after what I’ve experienced in these last 2 months. For one, the kind and gentle demeanour of a lot of Geriatricians is very refreshing especially in the field of Medicine, where egos run pretty high and where many overworked, stressed doctors are chronically pushed to the edge that they can lose their temper anytime.
What is Geriatrics? Geriatrics is a subspecialty of internal medicine which deals with caring for old people. It is often confused with rehabilitative care, which is a separate branch altogether, although rehabilitation is one of the primary goals in Geriatrics. The primary goals of this science include:
– Optimising Polypharmacy (the use of 4 or more medications in elderly people)
– Psychological well-being (this is where psychologists are also involved)
– Rehabilitation (where physiotherapists and nurses play a big role)
– Restoring cognitive function (also undertaken by physiotherapists)
– Improving social circumstances (helping with find the right place to stay, where its a short term care facility or a longer rehabilitation stay at a rehab centre or a hospice care facility, geriatricians are responsible for it)
There are many other goals Geriatricians focus on but it would take me a couple of pages to list them all out. Unlike other internal medicine subspecialists, this is a very diverse field where psychologists, physiotherapists and nurses play a very essential role in the betterment of older multi-morbid patients. Teamwork is of the utmost priority in whatever you execute so you’d be better of leaving that doctor ego behind once you enter this field. As patients usually end up staying for a longer period of time (in my hospital, we have a short term geriatric facility where patients stay for a fixed period of 16 days. This duration can be shortened or lengthened depending on personal circumstances.)
The most satisfying part of working in this department is the team that I work with everyday. My colleagues are all so friendly and down to earth individuals. Even the head consultant and the chief of the department are such amazing individuals. Both are highly qualified doctors who can easily daunt you with the amount of knowledge they have in the medical field but are instead eager to share this with. They’ve been helping me every step of the way in envisioning and realising how the work we do is very different from what’s done in other fields.
The second most satisfying part of my career is working with old people, which is something I was initially very apprehensive and unexcited about. But I’ve come to see how amazing these folks are, the stories they have to share, the loneliness many of them experience. I’ve seen how some don’t have anyone to care for them, while others have such warm and loving families that come and visit them every day. The latter aspect has surely restored my faith in humanity. And while many of these patients have varying stages of dementia, one can’t help but admire how they are so persevering in getting better so that they can spend that little extra time with their loved ones. It’s a very warm and humbling experience.
To all of you out there, I have a small take home message: don’t forget your parents or grandparents who have been there for you all your lives. They’ve helped you become what you are and now it’s your turn to give back. It’s as simple as keeping in touch with them regularly. It’s the small things they care about at that age. Meeting them once in a week or two can only have a better impact on their psysche.