Should Your Primary Care Physician be a Generalist or a Specialist? New Study Sheds Light on Benefits vs Costs

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Your primary care provider (PCP) is usually your first medical contact when you’re ill. Beyond taking care of you when you’re sick, PCPs help coordinate your health care and make sure you’re up-to-date with your check-ups, tests, and immunizations.

Typically, PCPs are family medicine practitioners, general internists, pediatricians (for children) and geriatricians (for older adults). Some health plans, such as health maintenance organizations (HMOs), require you to choose a PCP whom you must see first before being referred to specialists when necessary. These PCPs play a special role in coordinating your care.

However, other plans—including traditional Medicare and most preferred provider organizations (or PPOs), don’t require you to see a PCP before seeking more specialized care. As a result, many people may see a specialist as their main doctor rather than a PCP who would act as “gatekeeper.” Continue reading

For Older Adults, Antibiotics May Not Be Appropriate Treatment for Some Urinary Tract Infections

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

In a new research paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Thomas E. Finucane, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Geriatrics Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, suggests that prescribing antibiotics for urinary tract infections (or “UTIs”) may often be avoided among older adults.

Here’s why:

  • “UTI” is a vague, overused diagnosis that may be applied to older adults who have no symptoms but may have bacteria in the urine and also may be experiencing confusion, falls, or other vague signs (including changes in the odor or color of urine). In most cases, antibiotics do not benefit these older people.
  • Researchers are coming to a new understanding about the kinds of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that live in the human body naturally. We now know that everyone’s urine contains bacteria and viruses, for example. We also know that these microorganisms are usually helpful to overall well-being.
  • In some cases, antibiotic treatment can be harmful, especially for older adults.

Some groups of people do still benefit from antibiotic treatment of UTIs. These individual include:

  • People who are sick enough to require urgent antibiotic treatment regardless of findings in the urine.
  • People with invasive bacterial diseases, especially kidney infections.
  • Pregnant women and people about to have bladder or urinary tract surgery.

In his paper, Dr. Finucane says that microbiome studies—which examine the benefits and harms cause by the billions of organisms that naturally live in the human body—suggest that UTI treatment with antibiotics actually may be more harmful than we previously thought. If you think you have a UTI, or if you’re currently using an antibiotic to treat a UTI, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional first before changing your care plan. Your doctor, nurse, or other provider can work with you to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.

This summary is from “Urinary Tract Infection: Requiem for a Heavyweight.” It appears online ahead of print in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The author is Thomas E. Finucane, MD, Co-director, Elder House Call Program, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Specific Long-Term Therapy May Not Prevent Fractures in Older Women

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thinning of the bones, loss of bone density, and increasingly fragile bones.  This puts people at higher risk for bone fractures. Risk for the disease increases as we age. In fact, 50% of women over the age of 50 will experience a bone facture due to osteoporosis.

By 2020, an estimated 61 million American adults will have low bone mineral density. A group of medications known as “bisphosphonates” are sometimes used to treat osteoporosis.  These medications increase bone mineral density, which strengthens bones and is thought to make them less likely to fracture. Studies have shown that the risk for bone fractures lessens when women with low bone mineral density take these medications for between 1 and 4 years. However, little is known about whether taking bisphosphonates for longer periods of time has the same effect.

Recently, a team of researchers examined whether older women taking bisphosphonates for 10-13 years had fewer bone fractures than older women with similar fracture risks who took these medicines only briefly. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

A Police Training Program in Age-Related Health Helps Communities Better Serve Older Adults

JAGS graphic

Staying up-to-date on the latest geriatrics research isn’t just for healthcare professionals. That’s why HealthinAging.org is expanding its partnership with the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) to give you access to the cutting-edge insights that your healthcare providers use to guide your clinical care. The HealthinAging blog will now feature regular updates from JAGS—including future postings of our monthly research summaries—so be sure to subscribe to updates today!

For older adults with complex care needs, police officers are often the first people on the scene for a health issue or concern. Police officers often respond to calls for older adults with cognitive impairments (health problems that affect our ability to think and make decisions), or to concerns about abuse, neglect, or the general well-being of older adults who live alone and benefit from “well-being” assessments.

However, when police don’t have essential information about how our health changes as we age, they may risk causing unintended harm. For example, a police officer might not know the best way to assist an older adult with dementia who is behaving disruptively or even violently.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that most police officers receive little to no training in aging-related health concerns, and that promising approaches to such training can improve how officers can help older adults in their communities when they’re called to offer assistance.

The study detailed results from a program designed by geriatric care experts in cooperation with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). The team created an aging-related health segment for inclusion in the 40-hour “Crisis Intervention Training” police officers receive for addressing the unique needs of certain individuals. The training is mandatory for all SFPD patrol division officers. Continue reading

Safe Use of Acetaminophen

FDA_Whyte-9922R

John J. Whyte, MD, MPH
Director, Professional Affairs & Stakeholder Engagement
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Millions of people use pain relievers every day and when used correctly, these medicines are safe and effective. As we age, we may find ourselves using these medications more often than in the past. Making sure we use them according to the label directions is important because they can really take a toll on our health when not used correctly.

The key is making sure you know the active ingredients of, and directions for, all your medicines before you use them.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that are sold for different uses actually have the same active ingredient. Also, active ingredients in OTC medicines can be the same as ingredients in prescription medicines. For example, a cold-and-cough remedy may have the same active ingredient as a headache remedy or a prescription pain reliever.

There are two basic types of OTC pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen and others contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medicines are used to temporarily reduce fever, as well as temporarily relieve the minor aches and pains associated with:

  • minor pain of arthritis
  • headaches
  • muscle pain
  • backache
  • menstrual pain
  • toothaches
  • the common cold

We’ll focus on acetaminophen here. Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever and fever reducer, but taking too much can lead to liver damage. The risk for liver damage may be increased if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks while using medicines containing acetaminophen. Continue reading