by Dr. Simi Paknikar on  April 18, 2015 at 4:35 PM Health In Focus
Research Agenda to Improve Hospitalized Care for Geriatric Patients
A patient-centered research agenda has been developed by the Society of Hospital Medicine that could help researchers address gaps in the acute care of hospitalized elderly individuals.

An older patient has to be treated differently by health care professionals as compared to younger individuals. This is due to a number of reasons which include:
  • Some health conditions are more common in older individuals. These include heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, depression...the list is endless. Though these diseases are slowly advancing their claws towards the younger population, they are still more common in the elderly.
  • Some diseases like certain types of cancer occur exclusively in the elderly population. These have to be treated carefully, making sure that the treatment does not have a detrimental effect on the health of the patient. Conditions like cataract often require surgical treatment.
  • Older individuals often have to be treated with multiple medications to address their concomitant medical problems. These medications may interfere with each other resulting in a decreased or increased effect.
  • With age, the liver and kidney function may be affected, thereby slowing down the disposal of medications from the body. Thus, it may be necessary to reduce the dosage of a medication in an older individual.
  • Older individuals often suffer from dementia; it is difficult to expect them to treat themselves adequately. In addition, they may also suffer from physical disabilities like problems with vision and reduced mobility. Thus, they often require a full time caregiver.
Geriatric medicine is a branch of medicine that specifically deals with health problems of older adults. Unfortunately, there are very few health personnel trained to specifically treat elderly individuals.

Older adults frequently suffer from complications and have to be hospitalized. The Society of Hospital Medicine has developed a research agenda that could improve the treatment of the elderly population who are hospitalized. The agenda covers several unanswered questions that concern the hospitalization of the elderly from the broad groups of advanced care planning, care transitions, delirium, dementia, depression, medications and models of care, physical function, surgery, and training. The agenda was formulated based on inputs from patients, family caregivers, patient advocates, and providers of care.

The research agenda can be used by researchers to improve geriatric care during hospitalization, to close the current knowledge gaps in their treatment requirements and to thereby improve the quality of care in the elderly.

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