Clinical care — taking age out of the equation

Tuesday, 09 November, 2021

Clinical care — taking age out of the equation

Brisbane Waters Private Hospital has trialled a new approach to geriatric care based on a range of evidence-based medicine principles introduced by a local geriatrician, Dr Peter Lipski.

Debbra Ritter, Director of Clinical Services (DCS) and CEO, Brisbane Waters Private Hospital, said Dr Lipski’s principles, which are outlined in the latest edition of his book, were introduced to take age out of the equation when it comes to clinical care at the facility.

“By introducing a holistic approach which focuses on core pillars of care, we have been able to see our geriatric patients dramatically improve, recover and return home in greater numbers than previously experienced,” Ritter said.

“Through measures to improve and address malnutrition, blood pressure [and] adverse drug reactions, [and] the introduction of extensive pre-op and post-op geriatric assessments, we have seen a dramatic transformation in our older patients.”

In addition to this, a project entitled HUNGER (Helping Under Nourished Get Energy to Recover) has been introduced at the hospital as part of a working group which focuses on empowering nutrition for recovery.

“We’ve introduced changes including feeding times, which allows for greater gym time, and we’ve also worked closely with our catering manager to change menus.

“The project has been done in collaboration with occupational therapists, nursing staff, dietitians, Dr Lipski and physiotherapists to improve services, including the development of a screening tool which aims to identify potential malnutrition.

“Through boosting further education, awareness and the importance of nutrition to both staff and patients, we’ve seen an improvement in compliance across a range of areas and, as a result, minimise the impact of ageism when it comes to geriatric care.”

According to Dr Peter Lipski, who is the author of Your Elderly Parent’s Failing Health, blaming old age on medical conditions or symptoms effectively denies older people proper medical care.

“No-one is ever too old for treatment. One of the reasons that geriatric medicine is so successful is because there is attention to detail, getting the simple things right and a holistic overview of the whole patient, not such a specific organ approach,” Dr Lipski said.

“We need to destroy the myth that old age is associated with disease, disability and suffering — it simply isn’t true.

“Older patients can have spectacular improvements in their serious medical conditions because small interventions can make a huge difference to their health overall.

“By applying a holistic approach which tackles a reduction in drugs and adverse drug reactions, improving nutrition and mobility, managing low blood pressure, treating organ specific disease and chronic pain, you can achieve great outcomes for older patients.

“Older people should be able to function just as effectively as a younger person and it has been incredible to see these principles applied to clinical care at Brisbane Waters Private Hospital, and the results really do speak for themselves.”

According to Ritter, next steps for the hospital are to share their outcomes wider and encourage further implementation of the principles to remove age as a catch-all for illness in geriatric patients.

“By removing ageism and age from the clinical discussion and instead looking closer at patients to understand their symptoms and underlying illness, we have a greater chance of not only helping our patients but improving their overall quality of life so they recover, return home and continue to live a fulfilled and healthy life.”

A third edition of Dr Lipski’s Book, Your Parent’s Failing Health. Is It Ageing Or A Treatable Condition?, is now available.

Image credit: © Kuttelvaserova

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