The elderly patient on dialysis: geriatric considerations.
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The burgeoning population of older dialysis patients presents opportunities to provide personalized care. The older dialysis population has a high burden of chronic health conditions, decrements in quality of life and a high risk of death. In order to address these challenges, this review will recommend routinely establishing prognosis through the use of prediction instruments and communicating these findings to older patients. The challenges to prognosis in adults with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) include the subjective nature of clinical judgment, application of appropriate prognostic tools and communication of findings to patients and caregivers. There are three reasons why we believe these conversations occur infrequently with the dialysis population. First, there have previously been no clinically practical instruments to identify individuals undergoing maintenance hemodialysis (HD) who are at highest risk for death. Second, nephrologists have not been trained to have conversations about prognosis and end-of-life care. Third, other than hospitalizations and accrual of new diagnoses, there are no natural milestone guidelines in place for patients supported by dialysis. The prognosis can be used in shared decision-making to establish goals of care, limits on dialysis support or parameters for withdrawal from dialysis. As older adults with ESRD benefit from kidney transplantation, prognosis can also be used to determine who should be referred for evaluation by a kidney transplant team. The use of prognosis in older adults may determine approaches to optimize well-being and personalize care among older adults ranging from hospice to kidney transplantation.