Aging in America: FPs Prepare for Wave of Elderly Patients

As the baby boom generation continues to age, family physicians increasingly are being called on to meet the challenges of caring for a burgeoning population of elderly patients. Given family medicine's current workforce shortfall, that likely will put an even greater strain on the nation's FPs. Still, according to many family physicians interviewed by AAFP News Now, there are ways to successfully blend care for elderly patients into a full-range family medicine practice. Part of the secret is knowing how to balance your patient panel and leverage every coding opportunity to maximize payment for the often complex health care needs of these patients. It also means working closely with patients' family members and caregivers to ensure everyone remains healthy. We'd like to help you with that.

Payment Is Tricky Issue When Treating Geriatric Patients

April 24, 2012 04:45 pm — Family physicians know all too well that medical care for their elderly patients takes time. The list of chronic conditions can be long, and the roll call of medications even longer. Counseling and care coordination are time-consuming, as is exchanging critical information with family members and caregivers. And the time required is not always profitable for the physician. "Geriatrics is the only specialty where you do more training to make less money," says Ariel Cole, M.D., of Orlando, Fla. "The truth is, I can see three 25-year old women with urinary tract infections in the time it takes me to see one 85-year old with the same problem."

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More on Aging in America

Aging Population Calls for FPs' Expertise

Caring for Patients With Dementia Demands Special Skills

04/24/2012 — As the baby boom generation grows older and the number of patients presenting with dementia -- whether from Alzheimer's disease (AD) or another cause -- increases, family physicians are being called on to diagnose and manage this progressive disorder on an increasingly regular basis. According to the Alzheimer's Association , 5.4 million Americans currently live with AD, making it the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. And this number does not account for the additional patients diagnosed with Binswanger's type dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies or a more generalized form of dementia.

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04/24/2012 — Family physician Richard Madden, M.D., has been practicing in the small town of Belen, N.M., since 1985. During the past 27 years, he has seen first-hand the aging of his town's population -- the children who have grown into adulthood and the adults who are now senior citizens. As a consequence, Madden now takes care of more patients who are in the elderly age group. And this has added to the complexity of patient care, forcing Madden and his staff to address and treat conditions that are more prevalent among geriatric patients. "I have patients who come in and they don't have two problems, they have six problems," says Madden.

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04/24/2012 — Too often, planning for end-of-life care is left to the end of a life. But that stressful, chaotic time is often too late for a patient to make his or her wishes clear, and difficult decisions are left to be made -- and sometimes argued about -- by their relatives. It doesn't have to be that way. One of my severely disabled patients, who was in his 30s, recently died after a lengthy illness. His mother choose not to prolong his life with a feeding tube and watched her son waste away. She was at peace with that painful -- but correct -- decision because the family knew what was coming, had time to think it through and was prepared when the time came. My patient died peacefully, painlessly and without fruitless interventions because of advance planning.

04/25/2012 — As the baby boomers age, family physicians are dealing with a lot more issues linked to caring for elderly patients. Numerous resources are available for the elderly and their caregivers, but these resources can be difficult to find. The AAFP offers many resources on caring for these patients, along with extensive patient education materials, which we are listing in this toolbox. We also have included a selection of other patient and physician resources available via the Internet.

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