Older Americans Visiting Doctors More Often

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in Reuters Health July 17, 2001, reported that older Americans are visiting their doctors 22% more often than they did in the mid-1980s, and doctors are prescribing more drugs. According to the CDC's survey of physicians, office visits increased 19% between 1985 and 1999. Americans aged 65 and older increased their rate of doctor visits to about six times per year.

Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, director of the CDC, stated, "The aging of our population has had a major impact on ambulatory medical care in this country. As the oldest patients make up a larger proportion of the patients seen in a doctor's office, the doctor must be prepared to meet their unique needs, including monitoring multiple prescriptions and providing the best advice for promoting a healthy life and preventing disease and disability."

Unfortunately, elderly patients are more likely to be heavily medicated than the rest of the population. According to Medscape Pharmacotherapy, 2000, there are an alarming number of cases of elderly overmedication, which can often lead to delirium and dementia. It is estimated that medications contribute to 22% to 39% of all cases of delirium. A recent study involving older hospitalized adults found that the most likely primary cause of delirium in their study population was medication use.