Family Teamwork Gives Valued Boost to Senior Care

More family companions accompany older adults to physician visits and assist in daily tasks

MONDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Family companions involved in physician visits with older adults usually offer task assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs) and can help build patient-provider partnerships to efficiently manage senior health, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Jennifer L. Wolff, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and associates designed an observational study of 11,582 older adults who responded to the 2006 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to evaluate the task assistance and ongoing role of family companions who accompany seniors to physician visits.

The researchers found that 18.6 percent of community-dwelling adults aged 65 or older had a family companion accompany them to physician visits only, while 12.7 percent had a family helper go along to appointments who also engaged in task assistance. The companions went to physician offices with seniors 74.5 percent of the time at month 12, and visits were almost always (87.9 percent) with the same person. Such persistent accompaniment was strongly associated with task assistance (adjusted odds ratio, 2.52) in ADLs for seniors who were older, less educated, and had worse self-rated health.

"Older adults' accompaniment to physician visits typically persists, most often by consistently involved family companions," the authors write. "Findings have implications for the patient-physician partnership and the patient-centered medical home."

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