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Many Elderly Now Bring Companion on Doctor's Visit
Date:2/24/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of seniors still living on their own take a companion -- usually a spouse or other family member -- to their routine doctor's office visits, researchers report.

And they tend to bring the same companion to each visit, which may present the health care system with another important member of a patient's medical team, the study's authors suggested.

"This raises some possibilities for quality improvement initiatives for patients and their companions together," said lead study author Jennifer Wolff, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

However, further research is necessary to define the companion's role and figure out how to best support and include the companion in a loved one's health care, she said.

For the study, the researchers looked at data from a nationally representative Medicare beneficiary study completed in 2006. This survey had information on almost 11,600 community-dwelling adults over 65 years old. The researchers also looked at a subset of more than 7,500 people from this group who had responded in 2005 and 2006 to determine the consistency of companion involvement.

The researchers found that nearly 19 percent of those who answered the survey were accompanied to physician office visits, and about 13 percent were accompanied to the doctor and received some sort of task assistance from the companion. That means a total of more than 31 percent took a companion with them to the doctor.

Twelve months later, three-quarters of these seniors were still accompanied to medical visits, almost always by the same person (88 percent).

Most of the time (about 93) these companions were family members, such as a spouse or adult child. Spouses were the companion more often than adult children.

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