Young doctor is passionate advocate for older patients
“Aging is hard,” acknowledges Amanda Lathia, MD, whose patients range from their late 60s to their 90s and even into their 100s. The key, she says, is to age in the best way you can.
As a recent fellow at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Lathia “absolutely fell in love with geriatrics.” It became her specialty. “There’s a need,” she says. “I really appreciate my patients, the older adults.”
She received her medical degree in May of 2010 and this summer joined the Staff of Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute.
Her aim is to inspire medical students to go into geriatrics or at least increase their knowledge and awareness of geriatric issues. Taking appropriate care of older adults requires a different knowledge set from that used for younger adults, particularly when it comes to medications, she says. “You can give younger adults high doses of pain medication or anxiety medication, and they may not become confused. The risk for confusion is much greater in older adults. Give older adults even a small amount of anxiety or sleep medication, and they can become delirious.”
Dr. Lathia has a secondary interest in alternative or complementary therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki and massage, which have been used in some settings to decrease the use of anxiety and pain medications in older patients. Even warm milk and a back massage are as effective in helping them go to sleep as medication, she says. But there’s a need for solid research to show what works and what doesn’t, she adds. “There’s an incredible gap in knowledge about the efficacy of alternative medicine in the elderly. It would be so great to do research in this area. I’d like to see Medicare pay for some alternative therapies that are shown to be effective.”
In the meantime, older patients can do a lot to help themselves. Here is Dr. Lathia’s advice for aging well:
- Exercise your mind and body. Challenge your mind with new or mentally stimulating activities—reading, sewing, knitting, playing cards or board games, learning a new hobby, doing crossword puzzles or computer games. For the body, walking is an excellent exercise to do 30 minutes three to four times a week, she says, and tai chi improves balance and can help with arthritis pain.
- Take supplements, but check with your doctor first. Vitamin D and calcium are particularly important, Dr. Lathia says, recommending that you ask your doctor whether you might benefit from a bone density scan. Fish oil is helpful for mood and memory, and it’s good for the heart, but if you’re on blood thinners, check with your doctor before taking it, she says.
- Socialize. “Socializing helps decrease stress. I encourage patients to go out to lunch with friends,” Dr. Lathia says. “It’s important to do anything you can to avoid stress.”
For more on this topic, see Reduce Your Stress with advice from Ronan Factora, MD, one of Dr. Lathia’s colleagues at the Medicine Institute.
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