Anyone who knows me, is certainly aware that I have very strong feelings about how we should deliver health care – especially to older patients. That’s why I’m so proud that I’m part of an effort to expand geriatric health care access to Hebrew SeniorLife’s primary care medical services to more and more seniors both within and beyond the walls of HSL’s senior housing communities. In October, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially announce the opening of Hebrew SeniorLife Medical Group located in the Sloane Family/Century Bank Primary & Specialty Care Center in Brookline. For the first time any senior who wishes to can take advantage of our specialized services.
Why is this small step so significant? The answer lies in problems that I see in how we currently deliver services:
- Our health care system is well suited to respond to a medical crisis, providing arguably the best acute care in the world.
- However, over 70 percent of total health-care dollars in this country are spent on treating chronic, not acute, illness. Chronic illnesses are those that last for more than a year and require ongoing treatment, such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Older adults represent most of these patients.
- Effectively coordinating appropriate health care is a daunting task for many seniors, and their families. As a result, rather than providing patients with supports crucial to preventing or managing chronic disease, we end up treating them much later when they’re faced with a crisis that requires expensive acute care.
- Ageism has hindered health promotion and disease prevention among older adults. Too often chronic conditions are associated with aging and dismissed as part and parcel of growing old. As a result, finding ways to reduce or reverse the incidence of those diseases are not aggressively pursued.
That’s why medical practices that specialize in geriatric medicine are so important. Geriatricians appreciate age-related changes and conditions that impact treatment decisions for older patients. They understand how to treat patients with complex medical conditions and are able to handle multiple interacting conditions, drugs, social situations, and psychological problems. They treat the whole person and consider psychosocial and spiritual needs of their patients and patient families.
I believe that by offering a wide-range of community based health care services and with HSL’s history of innovation we can make a real difference in how adults will age in the future as we continue to champion geriatric medicine.