Treating elderly patients

April 16, 1991|By Warren Robak | Warren Robak,Copley News Service

Sometimes Catherine Bannerman feels like a sleuth in a white smock.

The mysteries she unravels are the medical ills troubling her elderly patients -- part of the nation's growing senior population -- who seldom exhibit the same clear symptoms as younger patients.

So Dr. Bannerman looks for the little things.

"If some little old lady comes in and says she doesn't feel quite right, it could be a whole host of things," said Dr. Bannerman, director of a senior health center. "People can feel not quite right and that can be a heart attack."

Complicating her work, many older people are reluctant to complain about their ills.

"As people get older, they expect to have aches and pains; they expect not to be able to see; they tend to assign symptoms to just getting older," Dr. Bannerman said. "So they don't complain to the doctor."

It's just one of the challenges facing physicians -- indeed, the tTC nation's entire health care system -- as growing numbers of the nation's population pass the age of 65.

Senior citizens are the largest consumers of health care, accounting for about one-fourth of all drug sales and more than one-third of all visits to doctor offices.

The unprecedented growth will challenge the nation's health care system to develop better treatments. And it will put pressure on Medicare and other government aid programs to pay for that care, experts say.

"We will be spending a lot more on this group in the future," Dr. Davis said.

The number of gerontologists, doctors who specialize in senior health care, has grown. But care of most seniors will continue to be provided by family doctors.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.