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Care of the Aging Patient: From Evidence to Action
Clinician's Corner
January 19, 2011

Finding the Right Level of Posthospital Care: “We Didn't Realize There Was Any Other Option for Him”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

JAMA. 2011;305(3):284-293. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.2015

Many families considering posthospital care options are ill-prepared and in need of guidance. They may not know the range of available options, the relative benefits of each, or have considered their therapeutic goals. Physicians should be informants, advocates, and facilitators of this big leap for their patients. Making a good long-term care decision requires information and structure, but such decisions are often made under great time pressure as part of a hospital discharge. Professional intervention and guidance by an informed but disinterested facilitator may be needed, but hospital discharge planners may not be well suited for this role because their mandate is a rapid discharge. Physicians have 2 crucial roles in these transitions: to ensure the seamless delivery of primary care and to advocate for and facilitate, however possible, better decision making. Physicians need at least a rudimentary knowledge of the array of options and the implications of each. Even if the physician cannot serve as the planning facilitator, the physician should ensure that this task is done well. This review describes the range of options and the implications of each option for long-term care in the United States. It suggests the need for evaluating each patient's care goals, family circumstances and resources, and clinical status to determine if more aggressive medical care might improve an individual's clinical trajectory.

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