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Caring for Older Adults: The Five Ms of Geriatrics

By the time many people reach their mid-70s, they’ve likely developed complex health conditions or had at least one health incident. If you have a senior parent or loved one whose health has declined and who needs more care, understanding the five Ms of geriatrics will help you better meet their needs and strengthen your relationship.

Why is understanding the five Ms important?

The goal of the five Ms of geriatrics, launched in 2017 by US and Canadian geriatric medicine specialists, is to optimize care for seniors with complex medical issues. Although the five Ms were first established to help physicians, therapists, nurses and the like to better address their patients’ needs, they more broadly help caregivers provide well-rounded aid and strengthen the team-based approach to geriatric care with families. They’re also essential for helping older adults manage multiple healthcare provider relationships and complex treatment plans.

What are the Five Ms?

The five Ms refer to essential elements of care as people age and their needs change. Here is an overview.

  • Multicomplexity

The first M, multicomplexity, describes a person’s whole situation. Often, as adults age, it’s easy to tunnel-vision on the chronic conditions and illnesses they develop. Fixating on the patient’s specific disease and not considering the different facets of their situation hinders proper care and treatment. For example, a person with dementia needs not only memory-related care, but also socialization to stimulate their mind.

  • Mind

The second M of the five, mind, involves the following:

  • Mental status
  • Dementia
  • Delirium
  • Depression

The patient’s state of mind must always be at the center of their treatment plan. Mental status assessment involves evaluating the patient’s level of consciousness, orientation, memory, attention, language, and ability to think and reason. The presence of any cognitive impairments, such as dementia or delirium, should be carefully monitored and treated as necessary.

Depression is also a common issue in older adults and can significantly impact their quality of life. It is important to screen for and treat depression in older adults to improve their overall mental health and well-being.

  • Mobility

As bodies age, they lose range of motion, impairing mobility. This can put seniors at risk of falling and injuring themselves. It can also weigh on their state of mind. When people can no longer move the way they used to and become dependent on a wheelchair or walking aids, depression or mental decline can set in.

When developing a care plan for older adults, care teams should consider the patient’s degree of mobility, how impaired their gait and balance is, and how to prevent falls.

  • Medications

According to a report on HCPLIve, “more than one third of prescription drugs used in the US are taken by elderly patients; the ambulatory elderly fill between 9–13 prescriptions a year [including refills and new prescriptions].” With so many seniors on multiple medications, care teams must look at how these meds affect the whole person, not just the illness or symptom they’re treating.

Care teams will often come together to discuss their patients stopping unnecessary medications (deprescribing), ensure they are getting the right doses, and identify the adverse medication effects and burden on the patient.

  • What Matters Most

Of the five Ms, some argue “what matters most” is paramount. When care teams discuss what matters most, they consider the patient’s healthcare goals and preferences. What do they want their quality of life to look like? What adjustments can be made to medication, mobility and mind to help an aging person live with dignity?

Why seniors need the five Ms of geriatrics

All seniors can benefit from the five Ms of geriatrics; however, if your loved one is considering moving into an assisted living community, it’s essential to make sure the chosen community takes a team-based five-M approach to geriatric care. They should look at each person individually and be ready to re-evaluate their care as needed.

Caring for older adults isn’t a one-size-fits-all matter, and needs naturally change; the care team must have the skills, compassion and willingness to meet those evolving needs continuously.

Springpoint’s award-winning senior wellness program—LivWell—goes far beyond conventional senior living activities. Our philosophy is “to provide the opportunity to engage in experiences that support a high quality of life, personal choice, lifelong development, and an optimal sense of well-being.”

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