What's New in Geriatric Medicine

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Every year in March, scientists, researchers, and medical professionals from around the country meet at the Annual Review of Geriatric Medicine, hosted by Harvard Medical School, to share the latest guidelines and advancements in the specialized care of elderly patients.

The clinical team at Calyx Health—a doctor’s office exclusively for Medicare seniors—attends this conference each year with the intention of implementing these findings at its seniors-focused primary care clinic in Alameda.  

Studies have shown that in a typical doctor’s office, the adoption and implementation of new clinical guidelines is slow—7 years or more. This delay is attributed to both a lack of awareness that new guidelines exist, and insufficient time for a provider to stay-on-top of treatment updates for a diverse set of patients, such as both younger and older adults. As a clinic that specializes in geriatrics, Calyx Health is able to focus on delivering specialized care to the unique demographic it serves.

Below are some of the exciting updates from this year’s conference:

  • Deprescribing: As people age, the way the body metabolizes drugs changes and drug-drug interactions are an ongoing concern. Deprescribing is a movement gaining traction that encourages physicians to consider “medication burden,” which takes into account age, disease, and organ function. Despite physicians’ perception that older adults are reluctant to stop taking their medications, recent studies show that many seniors are willing to reduce the number of prescriptions they are taking, if possible.

  • Fall risk. Falls are a major concern for older adults, but have been shown to be preventable with appropriate exercise. In a recent study, balance training (Tai Ji Quan) was more effective than conventional exercise approaches (such as aerobics, strength training, and stretching) in reducing fall risk in seniors.

  • Depression. Up to 1/3 of elders experience depression. Unfortunately, treatment can take several weeks to begin working and many patients try more than one medication before finding one that’s effective. New research has shown promising medication alternatives for combating “difficult-to-treat” depression in the elderly, such as a fast-acting, single-use nasal spray. Additionally, genetic testing—now covered by Medicare—can measure how different genes influence the way a person may react to FDA-approved therapies.

  • Dementia. Today, there is no one test to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, beyond reviewing symptoms and assessing memory and thinking skills. Now, new evidence supports using certain imaging technology that can both definitively diagnose dementia and catch it earlier. Though this test is not widely available as of yet, researchers continue to further their understanding of this disease and the potential for treatment looks promising.

  • Aspirin. Aspirin has known benefits in reducing a second cardiovascular (CV) event, but has had inconclusive evidence in preventing a first CV event in healthy adults. A new study showed that aspirin reduced heart attacks and strokes in healthy adults, but also increased the risk of bleeding. In addition, there is some emerging evidence that aspirin may help prevent colon cancer. The takeaway is that the benefit-risk profile should continue to be assessed when using aspirin in elderly patients.

Calyx Health, a doctor’s office exclusively for Medicare seniors, is located above Trader Joe’s in the Alameda South Shore. To schedule an appointment, call 510-323-4410 or click here to make an appointment.

Shaily Gupta