Dean Ernest had been living in a nursing home about a year when his son, John, got a call last winter asking if his father was experiencing back pain and would like a free orthotic brace. The caller said he was with Medicare. John Ernest didn’t believe him, said “no” to the brace and hung up. He didn’t give out his father’s Medicare number. And yet, not just one, but 13 braces ...

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On October 1, 2019, Nevada began allowing individuals to avoid living in late-stage dementia. The new statute recognizes the legitimacy of an advance directive that instructs health care providers to stop hand feeding food and fluid by mouth. Individuals have already been completing such directives in New York and Washington. The Nevada law is the first that explicitly authorizes such instructions. Growing ...

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At first, Dr. Robert Zorowitz thought his 83-year-old mother was confused. She couldn’t remember passwords to accounts on her computer. She would call and say programs had stopped working. But over time, Zorowitz realized his mother — a highly intelligent woman who was comfortable with technology ― was showing early signs of dementia. Increasingly, families will encounter similar concerns as older adults become reliant on computers, cellphones, and tablets: With cognitive impairment, ...

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A month ago, during a visit to her doctor’s office in Sequim, Wash., Sue Christensen fell to her knees in the bathroom when her legs suddenly gave out. The 74-year-old was in an accessible stall with her walker, an older model that doesn’t have brakes. On her left side was a grab bar; there was nothing to hold onto on the right. Christensen tried to pull herself up but couldn’t. With difficulty, ...

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Ageism in health care abounds. Older adults are often overtreated or undertreated for various conditions. The presence of things like fatigue, chronic pain, arthritis, and even cognitive impairment are often accepted as "normal" parts of aging — by physicians and patients alike — despite the fact that many are preventable. According to a recent opinion piece by NBC News, "We medicalize the natural process of ...

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Recently I visited a lady at her home who was a palliative care patient. She was seated on the couch in the living room with a turban on her head and a look of anxiety and depression. Her husband was quiet during the entire visit. He was seated in a chair next to the couch and just looked at his wife and did not participate in the conversation. Her son ...

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It's often said that pediatricians and veterinarians have the hardest jobs in medicine because their patients can't tell them where it hurts. But the same is often true for the health care professionals treating older patients who can't communicate well or don't fully understand what's being explained to them. So, whose job is it to advocate for these patients? The answer is that everyone on the medical team must play a ...

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STAT_LogoDuring my training to become a primary care physician, the importance of preventive cancer screening was ingrained in me. The idea of catching cancer at an early stage so we can better treat it made intuitive sense. But as I’ve learned over the years, the simplicity of this concept can obscure its limitations and make it difficult ...

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Everyone knows someone today who's dealing with dementia. And as a geriatrician — that means a lot of questions come my way. Questions about parents who recently had cognitive testing, about the role of assisted living, about prevention — you name it. Dementia is out there in a way it never was before. People have questions, and they need answers. Dementia is not a normal part of aging This is where I ...

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The decision seemed straightforward. Bob McHenry’s heart was failing, and doctors recommended two high-risk surgeries to restore blood flow. Without the procedures, McHenry, 82, would die. The surgeon at a Boston teaching hospital ticked off the possible complications. Karen McHenry, the patient’s daughter, remembers feeling there was no choice but to say “go ahead.” It’s a scene she’s replayed in her mind hundreds of times since, with regret. On the operating table, Bob ...

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