By age 85, the average remaining life expectancy for Americans is six years. An 85-year-old has a 75 percent chance of living another three years, but only a one in four chance of surviving for 10. Which category a particular old person falls into has much to do with the medical problems he or she has, or doesn’t have, and with his or her ability to function.
When the odds are that they have only a few remaining years, should doctors discuss that with them? These issues were discussed in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Smith, a palliative care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco suggested offering to discuss “overall prognosis,” doctorspeak for probable life expectancy and the likelihood of death, with patients who don’t have terminal illnesses. The researchers favor broaching the subject with anyone who has a life expectancy of less than 10 years or has reached age 85. Dr. Smith and his co-authors, Dr. Brie Williams and Dr. Bernard Lo — a geriatrician and an internist, said “This is about empowering patients to make informed choices and encouraging individual decision-making,”
“Advanced age itself is the greatest predictor of poor prognosis,” said, Dr. Smith and when patients they do think about it, Dr. Smith continued, “they want to get their finances in order, plan for long-term care, spend time with children and friends.” They may be able to take fewer medications and undergo fewer procedures, with the emphasis on quality of life, or otherwise shift priorities.
Read about this in the New York Times at http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/the-unspoken-diagnosis-old-age/?partner=rss&emc=rss
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