Items in AFP with MESH term: Aged
ABSTRACT: Physicians assess the decision-making capacity of their patients at every clinical encounter. Patients with an abrupt change in mental status, who refuse recommended treatment, who consent too hastily to treatment or who have a known risk factor for impaired decision-making should be evaluated more carefully. In addition to performing a mental status examination (along with a physical examination and laboratory evaluation, if needed), four specific abilities should be assessed: the ability to understand information about treatment; the ability to appreciate how that information applies to their situation; the ability to reason with that information; and the ability to make a choice and express it. By using a directed clinical interview or a formal capacity assessment tool, primary care physicians are able to perform these evaluations in most cases.
ABSTRACT: Osteoarthritis is one of the most prevalent and disabling chronic conditions affecting older adults and a significant public health problem among adults of working age. As the bulk of the U.S. population ages, the prevalence of osteoarthritis is expected to rise. Although the incidence of osteoarthritis increases with age, the condition is not a normal part of the aging process. More severe symptoms tend to occur in the radiographically more advanced stage of the disease; however, considerable discrepancy may exist between symptoms and the radiographic stage. Roentgenograms of involved joints may be useful in confirming the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, assessing the severity of the disease, reassuring the patient and excluding other pathologic conditions. The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is based primarily on the history and physical examination, but radiographic findings, including asymmetric joint space narrowing, subchondral sclerosis, osteophyte formation, subluxation and distribution patterns of osteoarthritic changes, can be helpful when the diagnosis is in question.
ABSTRACT: Elderly patients with unintentional weight loss are at higher risk for infection, depression and death. The leading causes of involuntary weight loss are depression (especially in residents of long-term care facilities), cancer (lung and gastrointestinal malignancies), cardiac disorders and benign gastrointestinal diseases. Medications that may cause nausea and vomiting, dysphagia, dysgeusia and anorexia have been implicated. Polypharmacy can cause unintended weight loss, as can psychotropic medication reduction (i.e., by unmasking problems such as anxiety). A specific cause is not identified in approximately one quarter of elderly patients with unintentional weight loss. A reasonable work-up includes tests dictated by the history and physical examination, a fecal occult blood test, a complete blood count, a chemistry panel, an ultrasensitive thyroid-stimulating hormone test and a urinalysis. Upper gastrointestinal studies have a reasonably high yield in selected patients. Management is directed at treating underlying causes and providing nutritional support. Consideration should be given to the patient's environment and interest in and ability to eat food, the amelioration of symptoms and the provision of adequate nutrition. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labeled no appetite stimulants for the treatment of weight loss in the elderly.
ABSTRACT: Neurologic complications continue to pose problems in patients with metastatic prostate cancer. From 15 to 30 percent of metastases are the result of prostate cancer cells traveling through Batson's plexus to the lumbar spine. Metastatic disease in the lumbar area can cause spinal cord compression. Metastasis to the dura and adjacent parenchyma occurs in 1 to 2 percent of patients with metastatic prostate cancer and is more common in those with tumors that do not respond to hormone-deprivation therapy. Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, the most frequent form of brain metastasis in prostate cancer, has a grim prognosis. Because neurologic complications of metastatic prostate cancer require prompt treatment, early recognition is important. Physicians should consider metastasis in the differential diagnosis of new-onset low back pain or headache in men more than 50 years of age. Spinal cord compression requires immediate treatment with intravenously administered corticosteroids and pain relievers, as well as prompt referral to an oncologist for further treatment.
ABSTRACT: Family physicians play a key role in assessing and managing patients with Alzheimer's disease and in linking the families of these patients to supportive services within the community. As part of comprehensive management, the family physician may be responsible for coordinating assessments of patient function, cognition, comorbid medical conditions, disorders of mood and emotion, and caregiver status. Suggestions for easily administered and scored assessment tools are provided, and practical tips are given for supporting primary caregivers, thereby increasing efficiency and quality of care for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
ABSTRACT: Depression is a common psychiatric disorder in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Primary care physicians, not mental health professionals, treat the majority of patients with symptoms of depression. Persons who are depressed have feelings of sadness, loneliness, irritability, worthlessness, hopelessness, agitation, and guilt that may be accompanied by an array of physical symptoms. A diagnosis of major depression requires that symptoms be present for two weeks or longer. Identifying patients with depression can be difficult in busy primary care settings where time is limited, but certain depression screening measures may help physicians diagnose the disorder. Patients who score above the predetermined cut-off levels on the screening measures should be interviewed more specifically for a diagnosis of a depressive disorder and treated within the primary care physician's scope of practice or referred to a mental health subspecialist as clinically indicated. Targeted screening in high-risk patients such as those with chronic diseases, pain, unexplained symptoms, stressful home environments, or social isolation, and those who are postnatal or elderly may provide an alternative approach to identifying patients with depression.
ABSTRACT: Older Americans comprise 13 percent of the population, but they consume an average of 30 percent of all prescription drugs. Every day, physicians are faced with issues surrounding appropriate prescribing to older patients. Polypharmacy, use of supplements, adherence issues, and the potential for adverse drug events all pose challenges to effective prescribing. Knowledge of the interplay between aging physiology, chronic diseases, and drugs will help the physician avoid potential adverse drug events as well as drug-drug and drug-disease interactions. Evidence is now available showing that older patients may be underprescribed useful drugs, including aspirin for secondary prevention in high-risk patients, beta blockers following myocardial infarction, and warfarin for nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. There is also evidence that many older adults receive medications that could potentially cause more harm than good. Finding the right balance between too few and too many drugs will help ensure increased longevity, improved overall health, and enhanced functioning and quality of life for the aging population.
ABSTRACT: Sick sinus syndrome comprises a variety of conditions involving sinus node dysfunction and commonly affects elderly persons. While the syndrome can have many causes, it usually is idiopathic. Patients may experience syncope, pre-syncope, palpitations, or dizziness; however, they often are asymptomatic or have subtle or nonspecific symptoms. Sick sinus syndrome has multiple manifestations on electrocardiogram, including sinus bradycardia, sinus arrest, sinoatrial block, and alternating patterns of bradycardia and tachycardia (bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome). Diagnosis of sick sinus syndrome can be difficult because of its nonspecific symptoms and elusive findings on electrocardiogram or Holter monitor. The mainstay of treatment is atrial or dual-chamber pacemaker placement, which generally provides effective relief of symptoms and lowers the incidence of atrial fibrillation, thromboembolic events, heart failure, and mortality, compared with ventricular pacemakers.
ABSTRACT: Gait disorders in the elderly are common and in most cases cannot be treated medically or surgically. Therefore, treatment often relies on ambulatory devices such as canes, crutches, and walkers. Before selecting a device, the patient should be evaluated to define whether one or both upper extremities are required to achieve balance or bear weight. Patients requiring only one upper extremity can use a cane, while patients requiring both upper extremities are best served by forearm crutches or walkers. The patient's need to bear weight through the device will help the physician choose a specific device. When measuring the device, anatomic landmarks and the angle of the elbow must be taken into consideration. Because time often is limited during a routine office visit, a physical therapist often can provide further training for patients learning to use such a device.
ABSTRACT: The management of hypertension has evolved over the past decade. Isolated systolic blood pressure elevation, the most common form of uncontrolled hypertension, is recognized as a significant risk factor for vascular complications in patients with hypertension. Nutritional management of hypertension has moved beyond simply restricting sodium intake to ensuring that patients consume adequate amounts of the major food groups, particularly those containing calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Selective aldosterone receptor blockers are a new class of antihypertensive medication, and the angiotensin-receptor blocker class has several new additions. However, the main-stay of treatment remains a diuretic or a combination of a diuretic and either a beta blocker or an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor. Hypertension is a significant risk factor for vascular complications of diabetes, and the target blood pressure in patients with diabetes or chronic renal disease and hypertension should be lower than that in patients with hypertension alone. Controlling hypertension in elderly patients can reduce their complications at least as much as it does those of younger patients with hypertension.