Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Facing critical decline of geriatricians - how this will impact our aging parents

A recent NY Times article highlights the critical decline of geriatricians.
There are only 300 new geriatricians trained each year. "Yet the number of people over 65 will double in the next 20 years". And, these doctors are the worse paid doctors in health care.

Why is this important to you and your aging parents?
Most elderly persons have multiple health problems, many of which are chronic illnesses. Geriatric doctors (or at least additional geriatric training as part of medical school/professional development) are required. Such training emphasizes the need to spend more time listening to the patient, knowledge of illnesses unique to the aged, coordinated care, and educating/involving the patient's family.

The article describes an attempt to address the shortage with a Baltimore team project in which geriatric-trained nurses help physicians by going into the homes of the most at-risk older adults. "The nurses go to patients’ homes, develop comprehensive care plans, help the patients in self-monitoring, help them overcome obstacles to self-care and connect patients and their families to community agencies." By keeping such patients out of the hospital provides the quality of life we all want for our aging parents, as well as reducing costs for Medicare.

On a personal note...
One of the biggest benefits my mother has experienced in her retirement community is their Wellness Center concept, in which her overall medical health is monitored and comprehensive health record maintained. She is seen by geriatric-trained specialists on-site in this integrated care environment. In just 6 months, we all are amazed at how her health has improved.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if such Elderly Wellness Centers could be established in each community, so those "aging in place" could benefit from the same concept? Does anyone know of such entities?

The complete NYTimes article is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/health/30bbox.html?partner=rss