TEDMED takes on caregiving
Posted on Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 at 6:41 pm by Life Matters Media
The stress and strife many caregivers face was the topic of TEDMED’s latest Great Challenge series. The streaming video featured health care professionals who pondered what should be done to manage end of life care options and address caregiver needs.
There are 44 million full and part-time caregivers in the U.S. responding to an aging baby boomer population that the health care system isn’t equipped to handle. Costs continue to rise, and in 2010, Medicare paid $55 billion for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives.
“We all know what the issues we’re dealing with are: the aging population, the health care system not being in a position to take care of everyone, people getting busier and living further away from other family members and a real need for better coordination of care in the marketplace.” said Alan Blaustein, the founder of CarePlanners, an organization which provides educational support to members. “The real issue at hand is that there’s nobody in the system who’s in any position to properly care-give or coordinate care for any member of your family,” so the responsibilities rely on family.
Education was a common theme throughout the discussion directed at both medical students and family caregivers. Blaustein insists students learn about caregiving, even though hospital settings don’t allow time for much talk with those managing the care.
Cheri Lattimer, director of the National Transitions of Care Coalition, offered practical wisdom for those just beginning the implementation of educational support programs for those caring for family.
Lattimer proposed that health professionals talk with “health literacy” to those looking for education and just starting to care for those with dementia. “We are talking in the health literacy that patients and consumers can understand. As providers of care we often go into medical terminology which can be difficult to understand.”
She also recommends educational programs with multiple individuals who are dealing with similar struggles- so they can talk to each other.
More and more young people are now taking on caregiving roles. “There are far more children who provide caregiving than we know. It has an impact on them, their schoolwork and their own emotional situations,” said Suzanne Geffen Mintz, the co-founder of the National Family Caregivers Association.
“Other countries have recognized this problem and developed youth-centered programs that allows kids to be kids. There is vast experience elsewhere that could be adapted here,” said Carol Levine, director of the Families and Health Care Project. Young adults, 18 to 25-years-old, are also overlooked and increasingly involved in family caregiving, she said. There is diversity in family caregiving, and varied caregivers have varied needs.
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Seniors can stay in their own homes: Construction changes needed
Posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 at 1:46 pm by Life Matters Media
Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros speaks out
Home remodeling can improve eldercare, said former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros at a recent lecture at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The event was sponsored by Northwestern University’s Buehler Center on Aging, Health and Society.
Both Cisneros and Jane Hickie, of the Stanford Center on Longevity, insisted that more seniors can stay in their homes if necessary changes happen within them.
With such a large number of Americans moving to advanced age, Cisneros said, the issue of where they will live is taking on increasing urgency. “While there’s a tendency to think about aging as an eventual destination to a nursing home, in fact, only about four percent of Americans ever end up in an institutional setting like that,” Cisneros said. Most seniors live relatively independently, in their homes or some apartment-like setting.
In 2000, there were more than 35 million Americans 65 and older. Cisneros calculated that in 2030, there will be 72 million. By 2050, there will be 89 million, because life expectancy is increasing.
Contrasting colored lining on steps and furniture, better lighting and guide lights can help seniors living in their own homes, Cisneros said. “A lot of this goes in the framework of disability structures and universal design,” he explained of the changes, which he called “cost-effective.”
“Older Americans are suburban Americans,” said Hickie. “As one ages there is a greater tendency to live alone and frailty does increase.” Therefore, Hickie recommended that housing designs should change to reflect seniors’ needs.
American housing design standards have undergone few changes since 1964, Hickie said, when construction was based on measurements of able-bodied men who were in military service during World War II. “The problem is that these design standards don’t fit a population that is shorter, less flexible, fatter, has less muscle mass and is just not as strong as younger people who were the basis for those standards.”
Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America is available now.
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In America, death is taboo
Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 6:30 pm by Life Matters Media
Are new technologies and medical treatment making Americans less comfortable with death? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published a feature by practicing cardiologist and former hospice director Bruce Wilson. Wilson recounts an experience he had counseling a friend whose mother declined aggressive cancer treatments for her terminal diagnosis. Wilson’s succinct commentary focuses on the taboo nature of death in America and how the culture is changing that.
Wilson writes about when his friend Jack came to him for support: “Jack’s mother had seen her doctor who had ordered a routine CT scan. Unfortunately, there was evidence of the cancer having spread to her liver. She had explored the options with a number of physicians and had decided that she was not interested in chemotherapy or more surgery to treat her spreading, and therefore terminal, disease.”
Like many in his position, Jack was upset that his mother would no longer be accepting of treatment, even though she could possibly recover. This uncomfortable experience would lead Wilson to explain America’s unnerving relationship with death.
Accepting mortality has become harder because death is now so uncommon. According to Wilson: “Death has become a taboo subject, but it hasn’t always been so. It seems to be feared mostly because as a society we have become so unfamiliar with death. Medical science has evolved very rapidly, and over the past 50 years we have become so good at treating illnesses that we somehow have come to view death as an option. Before heart surgery and angioplasty and antibiotics and chemotherapy, people often died when they got sick.”
Since death has become a taboo subject, hospice care, assisted suicide, or “hastened death” as Wilson calls it, are viewed as giving up or immoral. Hospice care is becoming increasingly popular for its cost and comfort focus.
“The number of hospice patients on Medicare doubled to 1.1 million between 1998 and 2008, according to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Another estimate of hospice patients this year, from the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, put the number at 1.6 million,” writes Jim Doyle for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
There are a growing number of states allowing assisted suicide. Wilson writes: “Many people in the U.S. are now making choices at the end of life that are viewed by some as radical. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Montana and Washington and is on the legislative docket in one form or another in a number of other states. Massachusetts will vote on this in November.” Wilson believes assisted suicide is more about the quality of one’s last days and not the number of one’s last days.
Learn more about the pending Mass. law here.
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