Health & Fitness

Shared medical appointments; elder care

When Hannah Kish, 25, was in high school in a Cleveland suburb nearly a decade ago, she got her annual checkup in a then-unusual way: a group appointment at the Cleveland Clinic. Today, shared medical appointments are common enough that doctors call them “SMAs.” The Cleveland Clinic has logged 8,600 SMAs in the past three years, according to writer Emma Haak in an article in the January issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. Nearly 12 percent of doctors who belong to the American Academy of Family Physicians offer group appointments, she reports.

Kish sees the benefits of SMAs: “At my most recent checkup, another patient wanted to know if mammograms were being recommended for women under 40. I hadn’t even thought to ask about that, so I was glad she did,” she says in the article.

Haak admits that it’s not unreasonable for skeptics to say that doctors like SMAs because they can pack in more patients per day and make more money. But, like Kish, she finds good reasons to think they are useful. She cites statistics showing that patients who attended group appointments had shorter wait times and were more successful at reducing high blood pressure or losing weight.

The story also explains how SMAs work and how patients can make best use of them. Haak warns SMA patients to expect both men and women to be part of their group – but be assured that if any disrobing is involved, there will be privacy.

Elder care

More than 40 million Americans report that they are caring for an elderly parent, another relative or a friend. Many of them are “sandwich generation” adults who are simultaneously raising children.

Journalist Virginia Morris’ encyclopedic guide, “How to Care for Aging Parents,” offers information and suggests further resources on a vast range of medical, legal, emotional and financial issues facing these overstressed caregivers. The subjects include dealing with doctors, preventing falls, hiring helpers, picking a nursing home, negotiating with family members, making a will and planning a funeral. As the cover text puts it, the book seeks to answer “all the questions you hoped you’d never have to ask.”

The first edition of “How to Care for Aging Parents” came out in 1995; a second edition was published in 2004. The third edition is more than 250 pages longer than the original and includes new information on such evolving topics as elder fraud, aging in place, patients’ rights, privacy laws and the use of such new technologies as wearable medical alerts, doctor visits via webcam and physical therapy using a Wii.

Nancy Szokan, Washington Post