What New Doctors Need to Know Before Working with Older Patients

The USC Leonard Davis School hosted first-year medical students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The students interviewed senior volunteers and got the following treatment tips from USC Leonard Davis Dean Emeritus Ed Schneider, an expert in geriatrics, long term care and overuse of drugs in the aging population.

  • Know the temperature

    As people get into their 80s, body temperature lowers. Don’t wait till a fever rises over 100 degrees Fahrenheit to take action. Older patients may need treatment with a temperature of 99 degrees.

  • Unless you are a pediatrician, you’re in geriatrics

    Expect that two out of three patients in your practice will be over 65 years old. Diseases present differently as people age and understanding that is key to correct care and diagnoses.

  • Don’t confuse confusion

    Delirium or altered levels of consciousness are key signs of infection or illness in older adults. Causes could include dehydration, urinary tract infections, wound infections or diabetes.

  • Think like a detective

    Older patients may come in with 20 or 30 conditions. Be prepared to do some sleuthing to uncover what is going on and how medications may be interacting.

  • Manage those medications

    Start low and go slow – older people are more susceptible to medications. Also, be sure to check what else they are taking. The chance of an adverse drug reaction is 90% in patients taking more than eight prescriptions.

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