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The Joy of Geriatrics

Dr Dennis Seow

The SingHealth Geriatric Medicine Senior Residency Programme aims to equip aspiring geriatricians with the medical knowledge, clinical competence, leadership and organisational skills to care for the elderly.

Dr Dennis Seow, Programme Director, shares more on the patient-centric approach taken to help maintain an older person's quality of life and independence, against a backdrop of multiple comorbid conditions, ageing and the vicissitudes of life.

1. What are some of the challenges in Geriatric Medicine that interested medical students or junior doctors will face?

In rapidly ageing Singapore, the number of older persons aged > 65 years old will approximate 900,000 by 2030. The challenges in caring for these older persons are two-fold. One, to provide good care and healthy living practices for the healthy agers who constitute the majority. Two, to provide comprehensive geriatric assessment and individualised tailored care for the frail older person with multiple comorbidities and geriatric syndromes who form the minority and find it increasingly difficult to live independently as the years go by. The frail group also constitutes the group with frequent hospitalisations and healthcare utilisation. The increasing urgency to provide care and training for the caregivers form part of the practice of geriatric medicine in Singapore as well. Indeed the Silver Tsunami is already upon us.

2. What are some characteristics that good Geriatricians have in common?

We are looking for compassionate persons who have a calling to care for older persons despite the older persons' infirmities, decline and functional limitations. A very good communicator not just with patients, but with family caregivers and informal carers as well. A person with a helicopter view of the multiple geriatric issues assailing the older person and yet a smart missile operator who can make decisions on targeted care for each patient-caregiver dyad.

We are looking for good and strong-hearted marathoners who can journey with patients and caregivers from illness till end of life and across transitions in care settings. These persons should be open to learning new ideas on care for them and if possible, innovate new forms of geriatric assessment, management and care.

3. What are some of the growth opportunities available in Geriatric Medicine, both professionally and personally?

Pursuing a lifelong career in geriatric medicine has undoubtedly been a calling for me personally. For the juniors who have such a calling, I would hope they do not drown it out!

For those with an open mind and a little inclination towards it and yet are put off by certain impressions or perceived personal limitations, take some time to explore it. It may surprise and reward you in more ways than you can imagine.

In terms of growth opportunities, there are certainly many jobs available in SGH, SKGH and CGH.

I would encourage those who are interested to come forward early and speak to the GRM PD, APD and GRM HODs to know more about the programme even as medical students or junior Residents.

4. Please share your hopes for the future of Geriatric Medicine in SingHealth and beyond.

The challenges of the Silver Tsunami are great but the workers are few. For the current generation of geriatricians in Singapore, few would dispute and many would be glad to see more competent and well-rounded geriatricians blossoming in future!

To speak to the geriatricians of SingHealth Residency, contact today! (Heads up, the Geriatric Medicine Programme will be at SingHealth Senior Residency Open House 2016 on 5 Nov to answer any burning questions you might have!