In this season of graduations, I was privileged to attend the ceremony honoring Boston-based Hebrew SeniorLife’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program’s class of 2015. I was moved by the depth of compassion and humility expressed by the graduates as they shared reflections on their experiences as CPE students. Their stories poignantly illustrated what it means to be part of a faith-based organization.
“Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender older people who fought the first battles for equality now face so much fear of discrimination, bullying and abuse that many are hiding their lives to survive. Thousands are dying earlier than their straight counterparts because they are isolated and afraid to ask for help.” This quote was excerpted from the movie Gen Silent, a film by Stu Maddox.
At the heart of our philosophy to “redefine” the experience of aging for older adults is our organizational focus to meet the varying needs of older adults in our health care, housing, home and community-based services, and research and teaching. We’re helping our seniors rediscover and redefine what their lives can be through the support of HSL resources. Residents have access to our continuum of care, and connections to HSL researchers and geriatricians who are working at the forefront of aging research and senior health care. Watch the video below (produced for Hebrew SeniorLife at the time Lou transitioned to his role as president and CEO) for a full understanding of how Hebrew SeniorLife redefines aging for our residents and community at large.
Before we look ahead, I think it’s important to see where things began for aging research at Hebrew SeniorLife. Since 1965 the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) has been at the forefront of geriatric research to improve the quality of life for seniors. IFAR research has contributed to some of the most important innovations in senior care:
The ACO playbook you need today. This is the title of the panel discussion I served on at the recent Senior Living 100 Leadership Conference. Senior Living 100 is the annual destination for the nation’s most progressive senior living organizations, and it was a privilege to represent HSL.
Joining me on the panel were a trio of senior living leaders, who, like us are charged with addressing the monumental changes being fostered by health care and payment reform. We each shared and discussed our respective health care environments, goals, approaches and challenges in creating meaningful relationships with Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs for short.
As dementia progresses, brain cells are damaged, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop disease progression, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a time by boosting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. However, these drugs have unwanted side effects, or have little effect in some individuals. Given no cure and limited treatment available, it is no surprise that there is high public interest in complementary and alternative therapies when it comes to treating dementia.
Nearly one in five Americans over the age of 65 struggles with depression, which can be a debilitating and life-threatening condition. Social isolation, illness and the loss of loved ones can all trigger or worsen depression, as can certain medications.
Center Communities of Brookline, one of HSL’s supportive housing communities, recently implemented a depression management program that delivers treatment, support and hope to seniors. The program, developed by Baylor College of Medicine, has been shown to reduce the severity of depression symptoms in older adults.
Following a hospital stay, it’s not uncommon to need additional care before going home. A stay in a rehabilitation facility is often recommended for patients recovering from a range of medical and surgical conditions, including joint replacement and stroke.
Whatever the reason for rehabilitation, the main goal of treatment is the same: Preparing the patient to return home and live as independently and safely as possible. Our approach is patient-centered and driven by each patient's goals. His or her impairments, prior level of function, and home and social environments all play a critical role in determining the treatment plan.
I just finished reading Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH. In his book, Dr. Gawande, a nationally known surgeon, writer, and public health researcher, discusses end-of-life care, the many issues with traditional nursing home care in this country and the ways in which long-term care should be re-imagined.
A 2009 study found that more than half of Americans over the age of 65 take 5 or more prescription drugs regularly and one in 4 seniors takes between 10 and 19 pills per day. And that the more medications a senior takes, the more room there is for error.
When medications are taken incorrectly, serious, life-threatening harm may result. In medical terms, this would be described as an “adverse medical event.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that older adults are twice as likely as others to visit the emergency room due to an adverse drug event – over 177,000 visits per year. Reasons for these visits may include dizziness, falls, delirium and changes in vital signs.