10 Things Docs & Older Patients Should Question

“Choosing Wisely”, and initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation, has released a 2014 update from the American Geriatrics Society listing 10 procedures and tests that should not be routinely performed or prescribed for older patients:

1) Don’t recommend percutaneous feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia. Instead offer oral assisted feeding.Careful hand-feeding for patients with severe dementia is at least as good as tube-feeding for the outcomes of death, aspiration pneumonia, functional status and patient comfort. Food is the preferred nutrient. Tube-feeding is associated with agitation, increased use of physical and chemical restraints and worsening pressure ulcers.

2) Don’t use antipsychotics as first choice to treat behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.People with dementia often exhibit aggression, resistance to care and other challenging or disruptive behaviors. In such instances, antipsychotic medicines are often prescribed, but they provide limited benefit and can cause serious harm, including stroke and premature death. Use of these drugs should be limited to cases where non-pharmacologic measures have failed and patients pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. Identifying and addressing causes of behavior change can make drug treatment unnecessary.

3) Avoid using medications to achieve hemoglobin A1c <7.5% in most adults age 65 and older. Moderate control is generally better.There is no evidence that using medications to achieve tight glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes is beneficial. Among non-older adults, except for long-term reductions in myocardial infarction and mortality with metformin, using medications to achieve glycated hemoglobin levels less than 7% is associated with harms, including higher mortality rates. Tight control has been consistently shown to produce higher rates of hypoglycemia in older adults. Given the long timeframe to achieve theorized microvascular benefits of tight control, glycemic targets should reflect patient goals, health status, and life expectancy. Reasonable glycemic targets would be 7.0 – 7.5% in healthy older adults with long life expectancy, 7.5 – 8.0% in those with moderate comorbidity and a life expectancy < 1 0 years, and 8.0 – 9.0% in those with multiple morbidities and shorter life expectancy.