Friday, January 14, 2005

Healthcare and the Elderly

This week I delivered a workshop for the Gerontological Nursing Network of Puget Sound, the region in which I live. This network consists of University faculty from the University of Washington School of Nursing, the de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging, administrators and nursing executives from various providers around the region, some Senior Center executives, and others in the aging field.

About 30 of them gathered for a half-day, to develop ideas for a vision and some initial action plans. Specifically, they wanted to develop preferred images for seamless health care for older adults in the future.

While the U.S. is hung up in 2005 debating another manufactured crisis, Social Security (more on that in a coming Blog), a real tidal wave is approaching. Everyone has heard of it, so I suppose many think, since it is old news, it must have been addressed. It is the tidal wave of an aging population.

It turns out that a tidal wave, or tsunami, may be an apt analogy. How did the recent tsunami manifest? Not in a single dramatic wave, but rather a relentless series of surges that overwhelmed what lay in their path.

The comparison is a little over dramatic no doubt. But here in Washington state, we’ll shift over the next fifteen years from 12% of population over age 65 to 23% over 65, and during that time the elderly aged, over 75, will also increase dramatically. What concerns the Network, whose members are in the trenches dealing the chronic conditions of the aged, is that while everyone knows the wave is coming, we generally keep on operating as if we have all the time in the world to get ready.

So what did they envision and decide, in their quick half-day session? First, a region where elders themselves are activated to take care of their health, prepare for longer life, and access the health care system in a knowledgeable way. To advance this vision, the Network intends to begin a process to share resources and develop effective messages to those who will be the elder community.

A second vision is for a health care professional community much better prepared for the age wave. It is shocking to learn, as we did from a publication called The State of Aging and Health in America 2004, that a significant majority of health care professionals receive no training in the issues of the aged, and are thus under-prepared for what is coming. So the Network envisioned a role for themselves in taking on this education in the local area, beginning with a survey to see what institutions are currently doing to address the coming age wave.

1 comment:

Living in Thailand said...

We have a website that was created during the Tsunami please let us know if any people there is found and we will delete themAfter the Tsunami