For 30 years, Joshua had a routine of climbing San Francisco’s Filbert Steps twice a week. He did it for the views, the exercise, and the interaction with other climbers—many of them tourists who had heard the steps would be a challenge but didn’t realize there were quite so many! Joshua, who is now 73, says he got pretty good at distracting the visitors during their climb by telling them about other great places they should visit in the city, and people were always grateful for his two-part generosity. But in the last five years or so, as his balance became unpredictable, Joshua felt uncomfortable making the climb.
When his problems with balance began, Joshua’s doctor recommended that he stop his weekly stair climbs and join a Bay Area gym, where he could ride a stationary bike and use the seated weight machines without the risk of falling with other exercise programs. His body had been so used to the active, standing exercise for so many years, though, that his balance got increasingly worse, even just with his daily activities moving around the house. This made it difficult to continue living at home on his own. But his health was otherwise very good, so his daughter suggested he visit a geriatrician she’d heard great things about from a friend.
This new geriatric physician expressed concern that Joshua’s feet, legs, and ankles weren’t getting enough direct exercise—that he wasn’t exercising his balance as another critical element of his health. She referred him to a local tai chi class designed for fall prevention. Not only did he start to feel more empowered moving around on his feet again, but he also was able to reconnect with a community atmosphere like the one he’d been missing from his stair climbing days. In fact, students in his class were able to recommend group walks through different Bay Area trails and neighborhoods that helped Joshua to feel alive again—even if he wasn’t able to restart his Filbert Steps routine. He continues to see his geriatric doctor regularly now, and they are always working on a new goal to boost his health and enjoyment of life.
The truth is that getting older opens up many new opportunities, along with the limitations, and the right physicians and care managers can help to steer you in positive directions. Read on if you’re wondering how to find a good geriatric doctor near you in the San Francisco Bay Area.
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Find a Geriatric Doctor?
As we get older, the scope and quality of our medical care are just as important as ever—perhaps more so because certain risk factors, such as the risk of losing our balance and falling, become more pressing as our body’s ability to rebound and regenerate slows down. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are less able to live and enjoy life as we always have, but making sure your care team keeps pace with you might just mean you’ll be able to enjoy that quality of life for longer.
A comprehensive geriatric assessment is one great way to find out if now is a good time to look for a physician who specializes in the health and overall well-being of older adults. This careful assessment would take into account not just your physical condition, but also your emotional and psychological health, your memory and cognitive fitness. Even if you feel fully supported and understood by your current physician and other care providers, this assessment will help to set you on a future course with greater awareness and tips to embrace aging with grace and open-mindedness.
Even without a formal geriatric assessment, there are certain signs and symptoms to look out for that might indicate it’s time to find a geriatric doctor near you:
- If you are diagnosed with multiple health conditions requiring medical treatment.
- If you are taking multiple prescriptions on a regular basis.
- If you are feeling fatigued by regular life activities.
- If you are experiencing aches in your joints and other areas of the body.
- If you have fallen or are feeling prone to falling.
- If you are losing your appetite or losing weight without explanation.
- If you’ve been feeling sad or like your moods are unpredictable.
Many of the above conditions represent geriatric syndromes or disorders. These are specific health considerations that geriatric specialists approach in unique ways—including chronic pain, which can be treated with careful therapeutic attention when considered from a geriatric perspective.
How Can You Find a Good Geriatric Doctor in San Francisco or the Greater Bay Area?
Have you ever wondered, Are there any geriatric doctors near me? If you live in the Bay Area, you have access to an excellent concentration of geriatric specialists. In fact, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Center for Geriatric Care is located right on the ground floor of Institute on Aging’s campus. The center’s geriatric care options are versatile to meet individuals where they are in life and health, including in hospital settings, outpatient clinics, in-home care, nursing facilities, and hospice care.
The UCSF Center and Institute on Aging can be great places to learn more about how geriatric medicine might work for your needs and goals in life. IOA’s On Lok Lifeways program is an all-inclusive option for Bay Area residents with comprehensive medical care and opportunities for connecting with community, healthy nutrition, and exercise. Participants can receive help at home or on-site care, with transportation provided if needed. Here, older adults are working not just with a physician but also with geriatric nursing care, nutrition, and physical and occupational therapy to help pave the way for a thriving future.
Another way to start looking for a good geriatric doctor in the Bay Area is to contact Medicare or another insurance provider directly, depending on the healthcare coverage you currently have. Let them know you are seeking a geriatric physician, and they will be able to narrow down a list of covered providers near you.
If you are a member of Sutter Health, you can visit their Find a Doctor web feature, enter your zip code and the Geriatric Medicine specialty, and discover a list of Sutter Health providers you can contact to make an initial appointment. You can access a similar search feature as a member of Kaiser Permanente by inputting your Bay Area zip code and typing “geriatric” into the Specialties search field. You can widen the distance from your zip code to include more physician results.
How Much Will Geriatric Medicine Really Change the Course of My Care?
Who makes up your healthcare team is always a very personal consideration because the important work you do together underscores the course and quality of your life. Are you going to struggle through challenges and changes? Are you going to just get by? Or are you going to thrive?
Just as Joshua discovered a new perspective and a renewed sense of self, you may also find that a geriatric doctor can help you to align with the changes and challenges you’re experiencing at this point in life. Because they have experience with older adults whose lives and challenges take on many diverse shapes, geriatricians are trained to be compassionate and creative—they are “experts in complexity,” according to Eric Widera, director of the UCSF Geriatrics Medicine Fellowship.
But apart from the value of geriatric medicine’s holistic and caring perspective overall, it’s important that you find the right physician for you. For ideas and advice, visit our guide to choosing the right geriatric doctor. Keep an open mind as you’re collecting names and contact information for potential geriatric providers in the Bay Area. As with any long-term working relationship, you need to meet these individuals in person to get a sense for your fit and their ability to see you clearly and support the goals that are behind your zest for life.
If you have a good doctor on your side, you can feel free to be more honest with them and with yourself. You can discover solutions and perspective you wouldn’t have run across on your own. Your whole life might just brighten as you start to feel more connected and empowered by the freedom of overall well-being.
Institute on Aging is a hub of knowledge and inspiration for older adults, caregivers, and all those who intersect with their lives. Whether you’re looking for support during your transition to a geriatric doctor’s care or for any other services and resources, get in touch with us today.