Geriatrics is the branch of medicine that treats and focuses on the specific health needs of elderly individuals. Geriatrics attempts to promote healthy lifestyles as well as the prevention of disease and disability in older adults. There is no specific age at which a person qualifies as a geriatric patient, rather such a necessity is determined by the needs of the individual.
Geriatrics requires specific attention beyond that of the average, healthy adult. The aging body demands specialized medical care because of the unique physiological changes that accompany old age. The various body organs, for example, decline significantly during the last decades of the lifespan. Additionally, new diseases not common in younger adults become manifest during old age.
Geriatrics does, however, distinguish between certain disease and the normal processes of aging. Many geriatric patients can experience greater complications from milder problems, such as dehydration, which can be more serious in the elderly.
Geriatrics also focuses on the “geriatric giants,” which are immobility, instability, impaired cognitive ability and/or memory loss, and incontinence. Loss of sight and vision also become acute in the geriatric stage. Geriatrics must also concern itself with ethical issues, such as end of life care and advance directives.