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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Overmedicated and misunderstood: Appropriate care for the elderly

Candy Schulman's story:

July 2, 2009
To the Editor:
My 96-year-old mother, who died two weeks ago, had difficulty finding physicians trained in geriatric medicine, even though she lived in Florida.

She was overmedicated and misunderstood. Early symptoms – and potential treatments – were missed. A robust woman who drove and played golf until she was 90, she felt infuriated whenever presenting a symptom, only to hear many doctors respond, "What do you expect…at your age?"

Once a year I took her for a checkup with the head of geriatrics at a leading New York teaching hospital, a gifted physician who reduced her medications. But the geriatrics department was eliminated. My mother never found another geriatric physician with the same insight and sensitivity until she was in hospice care. She received better medical care when she was dying than when she was living.

We desperately need to fill this huge gap in medical care between middle-age patients and the elderly at the final stage in their lives.

Advice: There are many electronic databases now that assist in the choice of a doctor. If you have trouble finding them, get the help of a professional patient advocate.

Read a story about drug interactions in the elderly.

Thanks to Candy for her letter, reprinted from the July 8 issue of the New York Times.

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