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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Common Geriatric Conditions Overlooked

Study Shows Many Health Problems in Older Adults Are Often Ignored
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 6, 2007 -- Half of U.S. adults over age 65 suffer from at least one common age-related condition, according to a new study. But researchers say these highly treatable geriatric health problems are often overlooked by health care providers.

Researchers surveyed more than 11,000 adults aged 65 or older -- from both nursing homes and the community at large -- and found 50% had one or more geriatric health conditions, such as loss of mental sharpness, falls, incontinence, dizziness, and vision or hearing problems.

Some of these conditions were as prevalent as common chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. But researchers say geriatric health issues may often be overlooked in the care of older adults.

"Geriatric conditions fall outside models that now govern much of health care," write researcher Christine T. Cigolle, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues. "The disease management model is directed toward individuals with a single disease that dominates their health care utilization; this model is less able to address older adults whose health care use is related to multiple diseases, conditions, and disabilities that affect one another."

The study also showed that common geriatric conditions were strongly associated with disability and difficulty in performing normal activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom, even after adjusting for other chronic diseases. People with at least one geriatric condition were twice as likely to require assistance performing daily activities and those with three or more geriatric conditions were more than six times as likely to be dependent on assistance for activities of daily living.

Researchers say most older adults with common geriatric health conditions live in the community rather than in nursing homes and are not under the care of a geriatrician.

"An approach to their care that included the identification and management of geriatric conditions is needed," write the authors.

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