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Family Involvement In Older Adults’ Physician Visits

  • PI:             Jennifer Wolff, Ph.D.
  • Funder:    National Institute on Mental Health
  • Status:      Results published

This project relied on quantitative longitudinal analyses of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, meta-analytic synthesis of the peer-review literature, qualitative analyses, and interventional techniques to examine the frequency, nature, and implications of family members’ involvement during older adults’ routine doctor visits.  This work demonstrates that a striking 40% of adults ages 65 and older routinely attend doctor visits with a family member or unpaid friend “companion.”  Older patients who attend medical visits with a companion are disproportionately vulnerable across dimensions of age, education, physical health, and cognitive function as compared with older adults who attend visits alone.  Family companions are most often spouses and adult children who actively participate during visits in varied ways that both help and hinder the quality of communication.  Study findings indicate that family companions’ behaviors are associated with patient participation during doctor visits, the quality of information exchange, and medical visit duration, and that they are amenable to intervention.


Wolff JL and Roter DL. Family presence in routine physician visits and the patient-physician partnership: A meta-analytic study; Social Science and Medicine; 2011: 72(6): 823-31.

Wolff JL, Boyd CM, Gitlin LN, Bruce ML, Roter DL. Going It Together: Persistence of Older Adults’ Accompaniment to Physician Visits by a Family Companion; Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; 2012: 60(1) 106-112.

Wolff JL and Roter DL. Older Adults’ Mental Health Function and Patient-Centered Care:  Does Family Companion Presence Help or Hinder Communication? Journal of General Internal Medicine; 2012: 27(6) 661-668.

Wolff JL. Family Matters in Health Care Delivery.  JAMA; 2012: 308(15) 1529-1530.

Wolff JL, Roter DL, Barron J, Boyd CM, Leff B, Finucane TE, Gallo JJ, Rabins PV, Roth DL, Gitlin LN.  A Tool to Strengthen the Older Patient-Companion Partnership in Primary Care: Results from a Pilot Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; 2014: 62(2): 312-319.

Wolff JL, Clayman ML, Rabins P, Cook M, Roter DL. An exploration of patient and family engagement in routine primary care visits.  Health Expectations; 2015: 18(2): 188-198.