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Excellence in Geriatrics at RWJBarnabas Health

Senior man

RWJBarnabas Health is committed to providing comprehensive geriatric care throughout New Jersey and addressing the complex needs of older adults with compassion. Our team of geriatricians work with fellow healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, and share the goal of keeping patients active and independent. Specialists in geriatric medicine emphasize continuity of care and include families and caregivers in a team approach to caring for older people.

What Is Geriatric Medicine?

Compassionate, specialized care for adults ages 65 and older

As we age, we become more susceptible to medical complications and our health concerns may become more complex. Geriatrics is the specialty branch of medicine that focuses on the unique healthcare needs of the older adult, providing comprehensive, specialized services to patients and families.

The field of geriatric medicine focuses on patients over the age of 65, however most patients requiring the expertise of a geriatrician are in their 80s and beyond. Specialists in the primary care of older adults play an essential role in diagnosing and managing health conditions and find gratification in taking care of the unique needs of seniors. Geriatricians often work with other primary care physicians and specialists to assist with managing geriatric syndromes – conditions common in older patients. Sometimes just a small change can make a huge impact.

The 5 M's of Geriatric Care

Although today’s older adults are living longer and healthier lives, health can change over time as the result of different illnesses, conditions, and concerns. Geriatricians take an interdisciplinary approach and focus on five key areas known as the Geriatric 5Ms:

  • Mind – working to maintain mental activity, evaluate for and manage dementia and/or cognitive impairment, evaluate and treat depression
  • Mobility – maintaining the ability to walk and/or maintain balance, preventing falls and other types of common injuries
  • Medications – ensuring that medications are addressing an older person’s needs and reducing the number of medications when appropriate
  • Multicomplexity – helping older adults manage a variety of health conditions and assessing living conditions when they are impacted by age, health, and social concerns
  • Matters Most – help with managing the individual goals of care and ensuring that a person’s health outcomes, goals and care preferences are reflected in treatment plans and Advance Directives

What Are Common Geriatric Health Concerns?

Illness and diseases may present differently in older adults so early detection can help ensure seniors receive the care that they need to combat and overcome a serious ailment.

Geriatricians are well versed in the many health challenges seniors face as they grow older and attempt to stay active and independent including mobility, falls prevention and overall functionality. We offer treatment for the following common illnesses as well as many other conditions:

  • Heart disease/hypertension
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer's and related dementias
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Falls prevention and related injuries
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Stroke

When Is It Time to See a Geriatrician?

While there is no set age to start seeing a geriatrician, the factors below serve as a good barometer to help you determine when it might be time to enlist the help of a specialist. If you or a family member notices:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • A decline in mobility, changes in gait and falls
  • Multiple concurrent medical conditions
  • Medication management has become too complicated or ineffective
  • Signs of frailty
  • Incontinence

What Is a Geriatric Assessment?

A geriatric assessment is an interdisciplinary evaluation designed to assess an older person's functional ability, physical health, cognition and mental health, and socioenvironmental circumstances. Different health factors are looked at including nutrition, vision, hearing, continence and balance.

A geriatric assessment aids in the diagnosis of medical conditions and informs the development of treatment and follow-up plans.

Geriatric Inpatient Care

When older adults are hospitalized, it can be confusing to have an entirely new team of doctors providing care. Something unique in geriatrics is that geriatricians typically see their own patients while hospitalized rather than a general hospitalist. Having a familiar care team overseeing hospitalization can bring peace of mind to both patients and families.

Geriatricians throughout RWJBarnabas Health are also available for consultative services and to assist with co-managing care of hospitalized patients with other physicians and hospital services. Geriatricians work with primary care physicians and with other specialists to ensure that care for the older adult is well coordinated and seamless.

Geriatric Outpatient Care

Many older adults are living active and healthy lives and can benefit from geriatric outpatient care. Our hospitals offer a multitude of ambulatory care services for senior patients and most RWJBarnabas Health sites offer house calls to senior facilities, assisted living residences and often to an individual’s home if home bound. As with inpatient care, geriatricians are available to consult with other physicians and co-manage the care of patients living at home or other care facilities.

RWJBarnabas Health Geriatric Collaborative

RWJBarnabas Health maintains a commitment to optimizing the care of the elderly. Through a collaborative effort among our hospitals and facilities, we standardize best-care pathways and other hospital and ambulatory initiatives to improve elder care. Our geriatric collaborative is made up of a group of healthcare practitioners with an interest in elder care including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

The Geriatric Medicine Collaborative at RWJBarnabas Health is under the joint direction of Theresa Redling, DO, FACP, and Gregory Rokosz, DO, JD.

Our Geriatric Care Team

Dr. Theresa Redling on Geriatric Illnesses

Dr. Theresa Redling talks with news anchor Steve Adubato about the most common illnesses affecting individuals over the age of 65. This discussion covers Alzheimer’s and the toll it can take on families.

Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Medicine

Caring for the exceptional needs of our exceptional senior population

RWJBarnabas Health features several centers of excellence which are dedicated to geriatric care. They feature full time geriatricians, geriatric nurse practitioners and social workers with special training. From dedicated geriatric emergency medicine units dedicated to the complex needs of seniors to specialized social services and rehabilitation services. These New Jersey centers of excellence are located in:

  • Hamilton
  • Jersey City
  • Lakewood
  • Livingston
  • Long Branch
  • Newark
  • Somerville

Learn more about RWJBarnabas Health’s Centers of Excellence in Geriatrics.

Geriatric Behavioral Health Services

Our New Jersey facilities offer a complete range of inpatient and outpatient mental health and behavioral health services for geriatric patients. Treatments vary based on the severity of problems, but include psychotherapy, medications, home health care, outpatient programs structured for maintaining a high level of independence, and hospitalization providing a structured therapeutic approach in an appropriate environment.

If a loved one is dealing with geriatric behavioral health issues, you can count on the RWJBarnabas Health Behavioral Health Network for support.

Our Access Center offers 24-hour support and consultative services to help you find the very best behavioral healthcare in New Jersey. Call us at 800-300-0628.

Learn more about our specialized geriatric behavioral health services in New Jersey.

Dementia and Memory Loss

Dementia is a medical condition that often presents with confusion, short-term memory loss, decreased problem-solving ability, decreased ability to follow directions, inability to perform more complex tasks, and sometimes, personality changes or unusual behavior.

Not all memory loss is Alzheimer’s disease. Confusion may also be caused by potentially reversible conditions such as medication side effects, infections, nutritional deficiency and hormone disorders, as well as other diseases that are treatable.

Throughout RWJBarnabas Health facilities, we have geriatric specialists trained to assess cognitive disorders and can evaluate and treat these medical conditions.

Rutgers University and RWJBarnabas Health Advancing Geriatric Medicine

RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University enjoy a unique public-private partnership dedicated to life-changing research, clinical training of tomorrow’s health care workforce, and high-quality patient care. Patients benefit from increased access to a world-class academic health system, clinical innovation, groundbreaking research and newly developed centers of excellence, as well as access to more providers that families need to manage their health and wellness.

Our institutions work in partnership to advance the field of geriatric medicine with the following initiatives:

Teaching Program

In affiliation with Rutgers University, internal medicine residents at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital receive special training in geriatrics. Residents build knowledge, skills and the proper attitudes necessary to care for the elderly under the supervision of a geriatrician. Residents learn to provide care that is compassionate, appropriate, and effective for the treatment of health problems and the promotion of health in elderly patients.

Center for Healthy Aging

The Center for Healthy Aging at Rutgers aims to create a platform on which clinicians, researchers, caregivers, community partners and patients can combine resources to gather patient-centered research and develop evidence-based care strategies focused on the “whole person” rather than on their ailments. The Center aims to advance healthy aging and address state and national imperatives to better serve the needs of aging populations.

COPSA – Comprehensive Services on Aging

As a result of the RWJBH-Rutgers partnership, our patients benefit from an initiative of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care called COPSA – Comprehensive Services on Aging.

COPSA has been providing compassionate and comprehensive mental health care to the elderly since its inception in 1975. A multidisciplinary team of geriatric psychiatrists, geriatricians, social workers, trainers and peer support specialists provide expert care and support for individuals and their families dealing with memory loss.

The COPSA Institute for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders is a statewide program that includes the Memory Disorders Clinic, Care2Caregivers Helpline, and the Training and Consultation Department. Institute staff train and provide consultation to geriatric professionals and community members throughout New Jersey.

For more information, please call our Helpline 800-424-2494 or visit: copsainstitute.com

Resources for Caregivers

As a caregiver, you may not always have the information you need to help the person you care for, or you may need some help for yourself. At RWJBarnabas Health we are committed to family-centered care and providing support and resources for caregivers who assume one of the most difficult yet rewarding tasks – caring for an elderly loved one.

There are countless community outreach programs for caregivers including support groups for different diseases and conditions, respite care, assistance with transportation, educational seminars, health screenings and flu clinics. Talk with your physician or social worker for guidance.

The COMPASS Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset – Somerville, NJ

The COMPASS Program helps caregivers and older adults navigate the health care system by listing health care services and community resources to ensure a continuum of care from hospital to home. COMPASS provides information on rehabilitation facilities, home care and visiting nurse services, housing options, adult day care centers, hospice care providers, dementia care and more. The program offers resources for:

  • Financial/legal counseling, including wills, power of attorney and advance directives
  • Social Work/mediation, communication/relationships, service location, needs assessment
  • Respite care
  • Resource directory
  • Workshops/seminars
  • Support group
  • Case management for medical and non-medical issues

For more information, call 908-704-3787, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Additional Community-based and Statewide Caregiver Resources

RWJBarnabas Health Locations

Regional and National Organizations – Resources for Older Adults

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