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Geriatricians spend most of their time with patients, taking patient histories, listening to their comments or symptoms, and running any of a number of diagnostic tests and evaluations, including physical examinations. Geriatricians generally see patients in a clinic, a long-term care facility, or a hospital. Each patient setting requires a unique type of patient care. Geriatricians often work with other physicians to diagnose and treat multiple problems and to provide the best possible care for each patient.
For example, an elderly man's complaint of fatigue could signal one or more of a large number of disorders. Diagnosis may be complicated by the coexistence of physical and mental problems, such as heart disease and dementia (mental confusion). This may mean consulting with a psychiatrist to treat the dementia and a cardiologist for the heart problems. Not only do geriatricians work with other medical personnel, they also work with family members and community services. Very often geriatricians work with the patient's family in order to get an accurate diagnosis, proper care, and follow-up treatment. If the patient is living alone, the geriatrician might also need the support of a social worker, neighbor, or relative to make certain that proper medication is administered and that the patient is monitored. If there is no cure for the patient's condition, the geriatrician must devise some way of helping the patient cope with the condition.
The job can be emotionally demanding and frustrating, as well as rewarding. Paperwork is also a large part of geriatricians' jobs as they must complete forms, sign releases, write prescriptions, and meet the requirements of Medicare and private insurance companies.