November 30th, 2011 at 10:40 am
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Slow medicine, decision-making may lead to better care for seniors

by Dorian Martin

Slow down! That message is one we need to hear when it comes to making decisions on health matters for the elderly. In this era of text messages, snap decisions and time limits on doctor’s visits, it really may be beneficial to give elders, caregivers and doctors some time to think about next steps and to make informed decisions.

For example, is surgery really the best option for the elderly? A recent Harvard study published in October in The Lancet, found that almost one-third of Medicare beneficiaries in fee-for-service plans opt for inpatient surgery during the last year of their lives. Furthermore, almost 20% of these elderly beneficiaries had surgery during the last month of their lives while almost 10% had a procedure the week prior to their death.

Treating elders with slow medicine

Additionally, the elderly’s wishes need to be considered and discussed. A recent study out of Switzerland found that 75% of elderly heart failure patients would opt for quantity of life over quality of life. According to Reuters Health, researchers surveyed 555 heart failure patients who were primarily in their 70s and 80s. When the study started, 74% of the participants said they would rather have two more years in their current state as opposed to living one more year in excellent health. That percentage increased to 80% a year later and remained constant six months later when the study ended.

That’s why I think it’s an excellent idea for the elderly, caregivers and doctors to explore slow medicine, a concept developed by Dr. Dennis McCullough, a geriatrician at Dartmouth Medical School. In 2008, The New York Times reporter Jane Gross wrote,

“Grounded in research at the Dartmouth Medical School, slow medicine encourages physicians to put on the brakes when considering care that may have high risks and limited rewards for the elderly, and it educates patients and families how to push back against emergency room trips and hospitalizations designed for those with treatable illnesses, not the inevitable erosion of advanced age.”

The part of slow medicine that I really appreciate is the chance to look at all sides of a health issue in order to make an informed decision. “You need to understand what you face, what you most want to avoid and what you most want to happen,” nurse practitioner Joanne Sandberg-Cook told The New York Times.

Therefore, taking extra time to consider options may end up adding both quantity and quality to an elder’s life.

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One Response to “Slow medicine, decision-making may lead to better care for seniors”

  1. Jessie

    I definitely agree with your opinion. Decisions should be made right at all times and it is only possible if take time to think it over and weigh the consequences. The elders should also be able to express their opinions/decisions in matters that concern them.

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