NPR: Patient Vigilance Can Help Thwart Errors In Doctors’ Offices

Here at AGE, we always encourage seniors, family caregivers, and relatives to advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office. By asking questions, expressing your concerns, and insisting a thorough exam to address your issues, you can make sure you get the right care you need. Current findings on hospital related errors is another reason. Check out the article below to see the eye-opening statistics, and tips on how to keep yourself from becoming one! -SP


by Michelle Andrews


Serious medical errors that result in malpractice payments are almost as common in outpatient settings like physicians’ offices and urgent care clinics as they are in hospitals, according to a recent study published in JAMA.

Of nearly 11,000 malpractice claims paid on behalf of doctors in 2009, 48 percent were for problems that occurred in hospitals, while 43 percent were for outpatient errors (another 9 percent occurred in both settings).

Unlike hospitals, however, where surgical errors were the No. 1 reason for adverse events that led to malpractice payouts, in outpatient settings, the study found, there was a very different culprit: diagnostic errors.

This makes some sense since much of what happens in doctors’ offices and clinics is related to trying to figure out what’s wrong with patients.

What causes diagnostic errors and how to avoid them is a subject of growing interest among researchers and policymakers. One oft-cited study of diagnostic errors in the outpatient setting that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2006 found that usually misdiagnoses were the result of multiple errors. The most common breakdowns were failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests and failure to create a proper follow-up plan.

Why did the errors occur? Physician failures in judgment, vigilance, memory or knowledge were the top factors that led to problems.

As a patient, there’s little you can do to prevent poor judgment, for example, or a lapse of memory on the part of your physician that leads to a medical error. But there are steps that patients can take, especially in the outpatient setting, to help minimize errors, say experts. The lead author of the JAMA study, Dr. Tara Bishop, suggests the following:

  • Unlike hospitals, where things happen quickly and patients may not know what’s being done to them, in an outpatient setting patients can and should make the effort to know what medical tests and treatments are being performed, and why.
  • Follow up to get the results of tests that have been ordered.
  • If necessary, get copies of test and treatment results and send them to other practitioners who are involved with your care.
  • Carry an updated list of the medications you take with you at all times and share it with all your doctors.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable talking with your doctor and asking questions. If you don’t feel comfortable, find another doctor.

Bishop is a busy researcher. She and some colleagues just published another paper that finds doctors are more likely to stop taking new patients with private insurance than those covered by Medicare.


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NPR: 74-Year-Old Redefines Looking Incredible At Any Age




It is almost impossible to believe now, but Ernestine Shepherd admits she used to be a couch potato.

One day, she and her sister were invited to a picnic, where they were told they could wear bathing suits. At that time, Shepherd was 56 and her sister 57.

“We put the bathing suits on and looked at each other and laughed and said, ‘Well, we need to do something about this,'” Shepherd recalls.

And they did. It started with aerobics classes and later on moved to lifting weights.

Today, at 74, Shepherd has a sculpted body from head to toe, including a flawless six-pack and perfectly carved biceps. She’s now a fitness instructor. Guinness World Records cites her as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder.

“Age is nothing but a number,” she says. “All you need to do is to be determined, dedicated and disciplined and you can do it.”

But it was not an easy ride. Shepherd lost her sister suddenly to an aneurysm and her death affected her profoundly.

“I lost my faith. Then I thought that I was sick. I developed panic attacks. But I sat around for a while, then I got myself back together and decided to follow the dream that she said that she wanted us to fulfill,” Shepherd says.

The dream was to inspire and motivate people to live healthy and confident lifestyles. But the dream also included becoming part of either the Guinness book or the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! list of attractions.

The perfect body certainly came with a strict diet. No desserts, no s’mores and no hamburgers. Shepherd eats chicken, turkey, tuna fish, brown rice, white baked potatoes and frozen vegetables. She says she enjoys everything she eats.

“My main thing — I drink liquid egg whites,” she says. “And that isn’t a supplement. I drink that to keep myself lean and strong.”

Now Shepherd wants to reach another goal: to be featured on the cover of a fitness magazine, to show that seniors can look good in sports clothes, too.

In 18 years, Shepherd has won two bodybuilding competitions and has competed in nine.


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NEWS: Why We Gain Weight As We Age


It’s a pretty common lament, the idea that you just can’t eat what you used to. But why is that so? And is it avoidable? There are a number of reasons why we put on the pounds as years go by, but take heart: There are ways to fight back — and win!

There are some particular biological changes that happen as we age. For one, aging muscles actually contribute to the increase in the amount of fat we store in our bodies, says Cheryl Phillips, president of the American Geriatrics Society.

“So, if you look at a woman who is 70 years old and compare her to what her body was like at 25 years of age, even though her weight may be exactly the same, she had more percentage of muscle in her body when she was 25 than she does when she’s 70.”

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NEWS: At 104, She Was Still ‘Classy’

From NPR

Clarice Morant died at 104. In this 2006 picture, she stands outside of her Washington, D.C., home, where she cared for her elderly brother and sister.
Clarice Morant died at 104. In this 2006 picture, she stands outside of her Washington, D.C., home, where she cared for her elderly brother and sister.

Clarice Morant made promises — and she kept them. Like the promise she made to keep her brother and sister out of a nursing home. It didn’t matter that Clarice Morant — who was better known by her nickname, Classy — was more than 100 years old.

In a 2006 NPR interview, she said the promise kept her going.

“I made a promise to the Lord,” she explained. “If he give me the health, the strength, the life to do for them, take care of them, keep them from going in a home, I would do it. And as long as he give it to me, I will give it to them.”

So she fed and bathed her brother and sister. She was a tiny woman, but she lifted, pulled and dressed them. There were other caregivers in the brick row house they shared in Washington, D.C. But at nighttime, it was just Morant, her sister — Rozzie Laney, who was bedridden and dying of Alzheimer’s — and her brother, Ira Barber, who’d had a stroke and had dementia.

Everett Barber, Clarice Morant’s nephew, laughs gently when he remembers another promise: “One of the things that Classy made me promise with her is that she said, ‘I will tell you when I am unable to take care of your father or I’m unable for him to stay here, and only then will you do something else.’ So that was our agreement.”

Morant was 102 when her brother died at the age of 96.

“She was all about providing whatever care they needed and never thought about, really, what her needs were and never complained about it. It was really remarkable,” says Monica Thomas, a social worker with the Washington Hospital Center’s Medical House Call Program, which provided health care for Morant’s brother and sister.

“She had wonderfully, wonderfully expressive eyes — that you could see the determination and will and strength in her eyes,” Thomas adds.

When her sister died, on the last day of last year, Morant was 104. Then, in the empty house, she started to wear down. This week, family gathered from around the country for Morant’s funeral — and to thank her one more time for keeping her promises.