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At its best, the body is a finely tuned mechanism: heart pumping smoothly, tendons and joints working in tandem, lungs inflating with steady assurance. As we age, however, these intricate processes begin to deteriorate, and chronic conditions can arise. “By the time you’re 90, you’re likely to be dealing with a lot of health issues,” says Kathryn Daniel, assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “Managing several chronic conditions can be very challenging for health care providers.”
Today more than 50 percent of older adults have three or more chronic conditions, a state known as multimorbidity. For these patients, care is confounded by clinical practice guidelines, which typically focus on managing one disease or condition at a time. In 2012 the American Geriatrics Society charged its Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee, of which Dr. Daniel is a member, with establishing principles for care providers to consider when treating patients with multimorbidity.
“We wanted to bring to light that you have to approach these situations differently,” Daniel says. “Clinical practice guidelines are helpful, but health care providers need to consider whether they have been derived from data including older adults.”
The results of the committee’s research came together in “Guiding Principles for the Care of Older Adults with Morbidity: An Approach for Clinicians,” a paper published by the American Geriatrics Society in 2012.
“Multimorbidity is a complex issue, and finding the right ways to address it is a work in progress,” Daniel says. “This was an important start.”