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Guidelines on What to Look for in a Senior Clinic

August 07, 2000|From Associated Press

Most geriatricians are affiliated with university medical centers or large health systems.

Some offer full-time care while others provide consultations. Despite the severe geriatrician shortage, patients often can get a onetime geriatric assessment from a university to advise their own doctors, says Dr. Kenneth Brummel-Smith, president-elect of the American Geriatrics Society.

The society recently adopted the first in a planned series of guidelines to help doctors and families recognize high-quality elder care. The first set targets "senior clinics," outpatient clinics advertising geriatric care that are starting to emerge around the country. But some recommendations are applicable to regular doctor offices.

The society recommends that senior clinics:

* Offer both primary and consultative care.

* Employ providers with sound geriatric training, plus an interdisciplinary team to coordinate the social services required to ensure medical care, such as transportation and in-home health aides.

* Prove compliance with key geriatric principles, including proper programs for dementia, depression, falls, and treatment and prevention of functional disability.

* Be more accessible. For example, many older people with hearing problems don't wear hearing aids and thus either don't hear doctors' instructions or the doctor has to yell. Instead, Brummel-Smith of Portland, Ore., hands such patients headphones and talks to them through a microphone. He also recommends checking doctors' offices for ramps instead of stairs, grab bars in bathrooms, and chairs that don't make it difficult to get up.

The society's Foundation for Health in Aging is beginning to offer other information about seniors' special health problems. Check http://www.healthinaging.org to download health leaflets.

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