HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Geriatric medicine focuses of the health care, treatment and prevention of diseases and disabilities in older adults.
Functional abilities, and quality of life issues are very important to patients who want to retain their independence.
Rae Benson and her husband were new to Huntsville when they began the search for a doctor.
"We moved here from Utah and I just had a regular doctor there," Rae told us. "When we came here, we needed a doctor and my son... he had a nurse who said that Dr. Khan was very good with older people."
So who should see a specialist? Anyone who takes multiple medications, someone who has cognitive or mobility problems, according to specialist, Dr. Zaheer A. Kahn.
"Any patient above the age of 65 years falls into the category of an older adult," said Dr. Kahn. "And after the age of 85, there are significant changes in the body. Their body mechanism changes. Their symptoms change. They are not the same as they were 10 years ago and they require specialized care."
He says above the age of 65, liver, kidney and brain function reduces by 50 percent... and that doesn't always show up on a blood test.
Someone who specializes in care for the elderly is also going to hone in on certain symptoms that they see could be problematic.
"The first thing is that these patients do not present with typical symptoms. For example, a patient with the age of 70 with pneumonia usually will not have fever and usually will not have chills," Dr. Kahn noted. "The blood test will be normal and they will not complain about lung symptoms."
He says that person may not want to get out of bed. They may be lethargic, frail, withdraw from eating, and have trouble walking.
"In the last 30 years, we have seen a significant change in the population of older people. And the highest segment of people is above age of 85. And so with the coming of the baby boomers, you're going to see a huge influx of individuals with specialized medical problems," the doctor said.
After a certain age, balance is also a problem, which can lead to mobility issues and even falls.
Rae Benson says she and her husband are very happy with their decision.
"I'm 79 and I've been going to Dr. Khan quite a bit because he does take care of the older patients and he's very good with them. He asks questions and he's very good with what you are doing. And he just takes care of you," Rae said.