Going It Together: Persistence of Older Adults’ Accompaniment to Physician Visits by a Family Companion


Address correspondence to: Jennifer L. Wolff, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Room 692, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: jwolff@jhsph.edu



Although older adults are often accompanied to routine physician visits and commonly receive disability-related task assistance, the overlap and persistence of this help is not well understood. This study investigates whether older adults who are accompanied to routine physician visits (1) also receive task assistance and (2) continue to be accompanied at 12-months by the same family companion.


Observational study.


Nationally representative survey.


Community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older who responded to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) in 2006 (n = 11,582) and a subset (n = 7,510) who responded in 2005 and 2006.


Accompaniment to physician visits by a family companion and receipt of task assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Persistent accompaniment and consistent family companion involvement was ascertained from 2005 and 2006 survey responses.


Among community-dwelling older adults, 18.6% were accompanied to physician visits only, and 12.7% were accompanied to physician visits and received task assistance. Accompanied older adults who received task assistance were older, less educated, and had worse self-rated health than their counterparts who were accompanied only. Family companions who provided task assistance (vs those who did not) were more actively engaged in physician visit processes and more often identified as always present. Three-fourths (74.5%) of accompanied older adults were persistently accompanied to physician visits at 12 months, nearly always (87.9%) by the same family companion. Receipt of task assistance was strongly associated with persistent accompaniment (aOR = 2.52; 95% CI: 1.93–3.29).


Older adults’ accompaniment to physician visits typically persists, most often by consistently involved family companions. Findings have implications for the patient–physician partnership and the patient-centered medical home.