Topics to discuss with your patients

Preventing aspiration pneumonia

For members with illnesses where they have trouble swallowing, preventing aspiration pneumonia is important. Please encourage them to:

  • Visit a speech pathologist or swallow therapist

  • Practice exercises to strengthen throat muscles

  • Practice proper oral hygiene

  • Eat slowly and take small bites

  • Sit upright while eating

  • Avoid medicines that cause drowsiness

Source: MedlinePlus, medlineplus.gov

Preventing bedsores

Bedsores are common among older adults and people with disabilities. Encourage your patients to contact you right away if they notice:

  • Changes in skin color

  • Open sores on the body

  • Swelling of the skin

  • Skin feels cooler or warmer to the touch than other areas

The following is a list of bedsore prevention methods to share with your patients:

  • Change wet clothing/diapers often.

  • Change your body position at least every two hours.

  • Check your whole body every day for signs of sores.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Keep your skin clean and dry.

  • Pay attention to bony areas of the body.

  • Use mild soaps and moisturizers.

  • Use pillows and pads to reduce pressure on bony areas of the body.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine

First aid for seizures

Seizures can happen quickly, and it is important that your patients and their caregivers know how to provide first aid if one occurs.

If someone is having a seizure, patients or caregivers should:

  • Call 911 and check for a medical bracelet.

  • Ease the person onto the floor.

  • Gently turn the person onto his or her side.

  • Clear the area of anything hard or sharp.

  • Place something soft under the person’s head.

  • Loosen tight clothing around the neck.

  • Time the seizure.

  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends.

  • Stay calm.

Never:

  • Put anything in the person’s mouth.

  • Hold the person down or try to stop their movements.

Sources: American Epilepsy Society, aesnet.org
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, cdc.gov/epilepsy/about/first-aid.htm

Make fall prevention a priority

Each year, millions of older adults fall. Falls are the most common cause of injury in older adults. Please discuss with your patients ways to prevent falls.

6 tips to prevent falls

  1. A regular exercise routine. Keep moving with activities that improve strength and balance, such as walking or Tai Chi.

  2. Grab bars and handrails. These should be installed in tubs and on stairs to help get in and out (and up and down) with ease.

  3. Good lighting. Falls are more likely to occur by tripping in low-lit areas of the home.

  4. Medication check. Doctors should be aware of medications their patients are taking, including over the counter. Dizziness from a medication can cause falls.

  5. Updated glasses. Vision should be checked once a year and a new pair of glasses are needed if vision changes.

  6. Clutter-free home. Get rid of things that could cause tripping, such as loose rugs or wires.

Cognitive impairment

Many patients with cognitive impairment or behavior complaints want their issue(s) diagnosed to understand their problem(s) and what to expect. Other patients (or families) may fear a diagnosis of dementia and the journey it entails. A Primary Care Provider can explain the benefits of finding out what may be causing the patient’s health concerns.

Benefits of early screening:

  • If screening is negative: Patient/family concerns may be alleviated, at least at that point in time.

  • If screening is positive and further evaluation is warranted: The patient/family and physician can take the next step of identifying the cause of impairment (for example, medication side effects, metabolic and/or endocrine imbalance, delirium, depression, Alzheimer’s disease).

    • This may result in:

      • Treating the underlying disease or health condition

      • Managing comorbid conditions more effectively

      • Averting or addressing potential safety issues

      • Allowing the patient to create or update advance directives and plan long-term care

      • Ensuring the patient has a caregiver or someone to help with medical, legal and financial concerns

      • Ensuring the caregiver receives appropriate information and referrals

      • Encouraging participation in clinical research

Resources: nia.nih.gov/health/assessing-cognitive-impairment-older-patients

Published on: May 22, 2019, 01:28 AM ET
Last updated on: May 22, 2019, 01:58 AM ET