Medication and the Elderly

Recently, I met an outstanding example of a geriatric patient. While shadowing Dr. Baksh at her office the other day, I learned about issues that are especially important to geriatric medicine, including the importance of reviewing medications and managing co-morbidities during treatment.

Brittnie, one of Dr. Baksh’s clinical assistants, went over each medication with this patient to discuss how it might interact with the patient’s medical conditions and other medications. Three crucial issues are whether a patient tolerates a given medication, whether the patient’s blood work shows adverse side effects, and whether the patient needs a refill. Dr. Baksh mentioned recently that without medications, elderly patients would probably be at much greater risk of life-threatening emergencies. Medications help manage disorders that occur as a patient ages.

The patient also had blood work to check up on her general health. In addition, she had been monitoring her blood pressure and blood sugar at home. Some elderly patients may have no health issues, but many illnesses increase in incidence as patients age. For example, age is a risk factor for cancer because in older patients cells have had more time to undergo genetic changes that lead to cancer. Another example is osteoarthritis, which is almost ubiquitous in older patients. Elderly patients also may have more comorbidities, necessitating various simultaneous treatments.

The patient shared many wonderful stories during her visit. An aide helps her at home every day. The aide’s company disbanded, but the aide still comes to the patient’s home and assists her.
In short, I learned a lot about geriatric medicine, a topic of importance today as the population of the country becomes older.