Medical-legal partnerships help docs serve elderly

As we've reported previously, addressing the complex needs of geriatric patients poses a big challenge to physicians, and that's just from a purely medical standpoint. However, emerging programs exist to help elderly patients address not only their physical but their social needs as well, leading to greater patient and physician satisfaction.

An innovative partnership between Lakeside Senior Medical Center, an outpatient clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California Hastings College of the Law, for example, allows doctors to help their elderly patients with common problems, such as housing issues, applying for public benefits, creating advanced directives and more, by referring them to lawyers-in-training down the hall, The New York Times reported.

Under the program, Hastings law students, supervised by both the law school and the UCSF faculty, spend 12 hours to 15 hours per week at the clinic, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors. The clinic "reduces so many barriers to getting legal help," legal director Yvonne Troya told the newspaper. At the same time, the students gain hands-on experience managing a complicated area of law involving overlapping issues in psychology, healthcare and family relationships, Troya added.

Close to 100 medical-legal partnerships already are functioning at healthcare institutions and universities around the country, according to the NYT, but most of them focus on children. In addition to the UCSF-Hastings clinic , the handful of programs specializing in the elderly include those at the University of Miami, Wake Forest University and the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

These partnerships reflect the idea that "there are so many social and economic factors that contribute to health," Sarah Hooper, who teaches at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, told the NYT. "Focusing only on the biological factors isn't going to solve anything."

To learn more:
- see the post from the New York Times

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