Medical Care Criteria Committee, April 2015
Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) has prolonged the lifespan of people living with HIV. Non-HIV/AIDS-related conditions now account for most morbidity and mortality among older people with HIV infection. Although ART reduces the effects of HIV disease and chronic inflammation, it does not restore normal immunologic function. The literature describes an aging HIV-infected population (between 50-65 years of age) with high rates of comorbid conditions compared with their non-HIV-infected counterparts. Medical care may be further complicated by neurocognitive decline and high rates of depression, alcohol and substance use, and social isolation. The goals of caring for older people with HIV infection are to minimize illness and frailty, optimize health and well-being, and prolong life.
This reference guide for care of older adults with HIV supplements, but does not replace, standard guidelines for all adults with HIV found on this website.
Initiation of ART in Patients Over 50
To prevent or delay disability, the following assessments are particularly important for older adults with HIV/AIDS:
- Total HIV and non-HIV disease burden and functional status
- Medication adherence, side effects, drug-drug interactions, need for dose adjustments
- Alcohol and substance use, including prescription drugs
- Mental and cognitive status
- Social support
Total Disease Burden and Functional Status
- Disease progression since last visit
- Consultations, specialty care visits, oral health care, ancillary tests, changes in medications
- New symptoms and diagnoses
- Changes in hearing and sight
- Basic and instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Pain, range of motion, gait
- Need for home care, assisted or congregate living, skilled nursing, or hospice services
- Hygiene: hair, nails, feet
Initiation of ART in Patients Over 50
- Older untreated HIV-infected persons have more rapid disease progression than younger persons [Phillips et al. 2004].
- Immunologic response is less robust in older patients [Gras et al. 2007; COHERE Study Group 2008]; however, patients >50 years of age who initiate therapy with higher CD4 counts are more likely to achieve better immunologic responses [Li et al. 2011].
- Patients who have longstanding HIV infection have increased susceptibility to inflammation-induced diseases and have diminished capacity to fight certain diseases [Fauci 2010].
Polypharmacy significantly increases the chances of serious drug-drug interactions, toxicity, and poor adherence.
- Current medications and adherence
- Potential drug interactions, adverse drug effects, allergies
- Dosing considerations: renal and hepatic function, pharmacokinetic changes with aging
Note: When patients report use of erectile dysfunction medications or products to relieve vaginal dryness, clinicians should use the opportunity to discuss safer-sex practices.
Screening tools: Urine screen; blood panel
Medication list and adherence verification:
- Create/update medication list, including over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and complementary and alternative medications.
- Verify current pharmacy and check prescription pattern and fill dates.
- Ask patients to bring pill bottles to visits, compare with medication list, and perform pill counts.
- Cross-reference information with home health agency or other caregivers.
- Consider use of customized pill cards, pill boxes (for those who can fill them on their own), home delivery, prepackaging of medication, “easy-open” containers.
- Ensure that instructions on medication dosing are appropriately conveyed.
Conditions of aging that may affect adherence:
- Impaired hearing: Perform screening test to determine need for formal testing
- Impaired vision: Perform vision screening every 1-2 years in pts >65; every 1-3 years in pts 55-64; annually for pts with CD4
- Cognitive impairment: Assess cognitive function at baseline and at least annually*
- Polypharmacy (higher pill burden, greater cumulative side effects, medication fatigue): Perform medication review at every visit; discontinue medications that are no longer needed
- Social isolation and lack of support: Assess social support at least annually*
- Depression: Screen for depression at every visit*
- Substance use, including misuse of prescriptions: Screen for substance use at baseline and at least annually
*See next sections for sample screening tools and questions.
Alcohol and Substance Use
Patients >50 years of age are at risk for misuse of prescription drugs. As with all HIV-infected patients, clinicians should screen for alcohol and substance use at baseline and at least annually.
Signs of possible abuse of prescription medications (adapted from the Mayo Clinic):
- Frequent reports of “losing” prescriptions and requests for more to be written
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Mood swings
- Change in sleep patterns
- Poor decision-making
Mental Health and Cognitive Status
As with all HIV-infected patients, clinicians should perform a comprehensive mental health screening at baseline and at least annually.
- Depression, anxiety, PTSD
- Psychiatric history
- Cognitive function
- Suicidal/violent ideation
- Sleep habits and appetite
- Psychosocial status
Screening tools for cognitive function and depression are provided.
See Mental Health Screening (Quick Reference Guide) for sample screening tools for all components of the comprehensive mental health screening.
Cognitive Function Screening Tool: International HIV Dementia Scale (IHDS)
Memory-Registration: Give 4 words to recall (dog, hat, bean, red)-1 second to say each. Then ask the patient all 4 words after you have said them. Repeat the words if the patient does not recall them all immediately. Tell the patient you will ask for recall of the words again a bit later.
1. Motor Speed: Have the patient tap the first two fingers of the non-dominant hand as widely and as quickly as possible.
- 4 = 15 in 5 seconds
- 3 = 11-14 in 5 seconds
- 2 = 7-10 in 5 seconds
- 1 = 3-6 in 5 seconds
- 0 = 0-2 in 5 seconds
2. Psychomotor Speed: Have the patient perform the following movements with the non-dominant hand as quickly as possible:
- Clench hand in fist on flat surface.
- Put hand flat on surface with palm down.
- Put perpendicular to flat surface on the side of the 5th digit.
- Demonstrate and have the patient perform twice for practice.
3. Memory Recall: Ask the patient to recall the 4 words. For words not recalled, prompt with a semantic clue as follows: animal (dog); piece of clothing (hat); vegetable (bean); color (red).
Score: Give 1 point for each word spontaneously recalled. Give 0.5 point for each correct answer after prompting. (Maximum: 4 points)
Total Score: This is the sum of the scores on items 1–3. The maximum possible score is 12. Patients with a score of ≤10 should be evaluated further for possible dementia.
Note: Reprinted by permission of Wolters Kluwer Health [Sacktor et al. 2005].
Questions to Identify Depression (PHQ-2)
Over the past 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things:
0 = Not at all
1 = Several days
2 = More than half the days
3 = Nearly every day
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless:
0 = Not at all
1 = Several days
2 = More than half the days
3 = Nearly every day
Score: A score of 3 or more indicates the need for further evaluation
Note: Reprinted from Kroenke et al. 2003.
Social Support and Daily Care
- Emergency contact information
- Name of case manager, care coordinator, agencies providing services
- Need for interpreter, family conference, advance directives, long-term care, or hospice discussion
- HIPAA consents for communicating with support network
Sample Screening Questions
- Do you do things socially with friends? What do you like to do?
- Is there anyone who could come with you to medical appointments?
- Is there anyone who you would call if you felt really sick?
- Does anyone help you shop, cook, do the laundry, or take care of the house?
Nutrition: How often do you eat? What do you eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
- What do you do for exercise? How often to do you leave the house?
- Do you ever use a cane, walker, or wheelchair?
- Do you drive? Do you use the subway, buses, or taxis? Can you manage stairs?
- Do you have friends or family members who could help with transportation?
- Have you ever fallen in your home or outside? Do you ever feel that you might?
- Is your telephone always working? Do you have a phone in your bedroom?
- Currently, does anyone hit you, bully you, or yell at you? Do you feel safe in your home and neighborhood?
- Do you manage your own money? Do you think that anyone is stealing from you or taking advantage of you financially?
Communicating with Older Patients
- Use respectful, preferred forms of address
- Engage the patient: maintain eye contact; use frequent, brief, affirmative responses; avoid rushing and interrupting; demonstrate empathy
Compensate for vision and hearing deficits:
- Ensure patients are wearing eyeglasses and/or working hearing aids, if needed
- Speak slowly and clearly; keep hands away from face
- Use large type, visual aids
Create opportunity for discussion of sex:
- Ask whether the patient is sexually active and has any problems to address
- Assess and enhance patient’s knowledge of safer-sex practices
Ensure understanding [NIA 2008]:
- Write down important information
- Avoid jargon, ask if clarification is needed
- Summarize plan and next steps
Discussing long-term care and hospice [Balaban 2000; Casarett et al. 2007]:
- Establish a supportive relationship, acknowledge patient feelings and concerns, and offer reassurance
- Identify and include other decision makers
- Help define expectations based on disease status and prognosis
- Discuss service needs, recommend level of care (home care, assisted living, skilled nursing, hospice), and establish consensus for treatment plan
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