Geriatrics & Long-Term Care Medical Assistants

Annually over 8 million people receive support for long-term care, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 27 million people in need of long-term care in response to the growth in the population of older people. More than half of adults age 65 and older have 3 or more medical problems including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure, according to

A medical assistant can choose the specialty of geriatrics. A medical assistant can work at a traditional family practice, in a long-term care facility or with a Geriatrician and their team. They must also understand the common geriatric patient’s medical problems and treat their geriatric patients with respect and dignity.

Respect & Dignity

The medical assistant must respect the geriatric patient and treat them with dignity. They will want to be courteous, polite and kind while interacting with the geriatric patient. The medical assistant will also want to treat the geriatric patient as a human being. They should understand that the geriatric patient wants to be seen, heard, listened to, and treated fairly.

What is Geriatrics?

Geriatrics is the branch of medicine dealing with the health care of the older adult population. Healthcare becomes more complex as one ages, and one may encounter more medical conditions. The specialty of geriatrics focuses on how medical conditions impact one another and how both medical conditions and medications affect someone as they age.

What is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care is a set of services and supports that help geriatric patients with personal care needs. This can include assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life including bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, moving around and eating. Long-term care can also include meals, adult day care and transportation services. The medical assistant can work at a long-term care facility performing many administrative duties and supporting staff while caring for patients.

What are the Common Medical Problems for Seniors?

A medical assistant will need to be aware of the common medical problems if they are to work with geriatric patients. Common medical problems for seniors include Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, general memory loss, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease – a progressive disease that destroys memory, thinking and behavior. The symptoms include memory loss and confusion. Aggression and anger are part of the decline and should not be taken personally. In 2017, tt was estimated that 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Arthritis – painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, according to the Arthritis Foundation. More than 50 million adults in the U.S. have some type of arthritis. Common symptoms of joint arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

Cardiovascular Disease – heart condition that includes diseased blood vessels, structural heart problems and blood clots. It is related to atherosclerosis, which is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. Different types of cardiovascular disease include heart valve problems, arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke. Symptoms include chest pain, tightness, pressure, and discomfort; shortness of breath; pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the legs or arm; and pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Risk factors of cardiovascular disease include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. Almost half of Americans have at least one of the risk factors for heart cardiovascular disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dementia – some memory loss and difficulty with thought processes as a result of aging. Typically, as a result of a disease or as a side effect of medication. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and accounts for up to 80 percent of all dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Diabetes (Type 2) – a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. In the early stages of pre-diabetes there may be no symptoms and only a blood test can identify the condition. Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, increase appetite, fatigue and blurred vision. In 2015, the percentage of Americans age 65 and older was 25% or 12 million seniors, according to the American Diabetes Association.

General Memory Loss – geriatric patients may experience memory loss and it is important for the medical assistant to build a rapport with them to make sure they take their medication as prescribed. The best way for a medical assistant to convey medical information is by writing down the instructions for later use and have the geriatric patient read back the instructions to the medical assistant. Another way to remind geriatric patients is to provide a calendar of appointments with a list of times, days for treatment and medication.

High Blood Pressure – when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels is consistently too high. High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms. Risk factors for high blood pressure include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Parkinson’s Disease – a slow, progressive neurologic disorder affecting brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Symptoms include muscle rigidity, abnormally slow voluntary movements, difficult walking, forward-bending posture, monotone voice, drooling, mask face, and small tremors starting in the fingers. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease each year, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Enjoy helping others with geriatric care? Interested in becoming a medical assistant and working in a physician’s office, geriatric practice or long-term care facility? Gwinnett Colleges & Institute offers medical assisting courses to gain essential skills and training. The core curriculum focuses on the medical assisting skills and training you will need to seek entry-level employment in physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings needing the services of associates trained in both front and back office medical assisting skills. These medical assisting courses will be the first step in starting a rewarding career.