My grandmother's room is silent, save for the plucks of sitar strings and Pixar movie soundtracks I try to stimulate her with. Instead of books, we fill the shelves around her bed with mouth swabs, drab hospital gowns and vials of baby powder. My grandmother — who walked an hour every day, who thrashed me in gin rummy, who rose before sunrise every morning to read — now lies bedridden ...

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One of the most challenging and difficult parts of my professional day is trying to determine if my patients are actually taking their as prescribed. I ask my patients to bring their medications to each visit in the original pill bottles, and we count pills. I ask them to bring their medication lists as well, and we go through the time-consuming practice of reviewing each medication against the prescribing date and ...

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SNF is the acronym we use in health care for “skilled nursing facility.” Fittingly, it is pronounced “sniff,” a fact that became fitting as I watched my father die in one this past week. My parents, 86 and 89, bought into a beautiful retirement community 10 years ago. Included was a lovely apartment, full-service dining facility, gym and health center, the last of which included an SNF. In the past three months, ...

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Part of a series. The percentage of the population that will be “elderly” is rising fairly dramatically. In 1900 only four percent of the population was over 65 and only one percent over 75. By 1950 it was eight and three percent, respectively. By 2000 it was thirteen and five percent, and now it’s about fourteen and six percent. By 2030 it will be substantially more again. There are many ...

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He was referred to me by a colleague with a large geriatric practice for evaluation and treatment for HIV. He was 76 years old and lived in an assisted living facility. He was, however, very independent and only required limited assistance. When asked what he expected from the visit he responded that he had been sent to me by his PCP. Review of his records suggested that in addition to ...

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Part of a series. For most of recorded human history, lifespans did not change. Life expectancy doubled in the twentieth century. At the time of Lincoln the average life span was 38 years; today it is about 78 to 80 years. But whenever it ends it is like a waterfall. Most people begin to die near to the expected point; the drop off in percentage still living declines precipitously. Fortunately, ...

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Part of a series. Those of you who have read some of my past posts are aware that I wrote mostly about various aspects of primary care and our dysfunctional healthcare delivery system overall. About 18 months ago I wrote a post for KevinMD on moving to a retirement community. More recently I became focused on the primary care needs of older individuals and from there got ...

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This spring, the California Board of Optometry shut down the only optometrist providing services to homebound patients in the San Francisco Bay Area. I learned about this because affected patients included several referred from our UC San Francisco Housecalls program, one of a few non-profit, non-concierge home-based practices in the state providing geriatrics care to homebound adults. With over 1 million adults homebound in California, why would any board deliberately limit ...

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Born in Canada, our mother came to the United States after World War II and blended into the Greatest Generation. Raising a family in the second half of the 20th century saw her contribute to a thriving American society then maintain retirement health on Medicare. But in her early 90s, this tranquility was threatened when her HMO hospital tried to kill her. She went to the emergency room with symptoms of ...

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Once upon a time, not that long ago, there was man who lived an uncomplicated life. One morning he awoke and did not feel well. He could not really describe his malaise, but he definitely was not his usual self. Nothing particularly noteworthy had happened to him except that his dog had recently died of old age. William, a scruffy little terrier, was 17 years old, and the man knew ...

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