Dr. Suzanne Landis has devoted her life to improving care for older adults.
Suzanne Landis, MD, MPH, drives an older, sensible car. She is an understated person often found standing in the back row of group photos. But don’t let her modest demeanor fool you.
She is one of the most giving and effective people I know. Dr. Landis, who practices geriatrics in rural Western North Carolina, leads the Center for Healthy Aging at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.
Chris Langston, right, with his “Faraway” grandmother Nancy Imber, circa late 1970s. Joining them are his mother Adair and younger sister Anne.
When I was a child, I had two grandmothers. A nearby grandmother (Gammy) and a faraway grandmother, known forever after just as “Faraway.” I know she found it rather odd to be looked right in the face and addressed as “Faraway,” but as it was all I ever knew, it seemed just right to me.
In her last years, after the death of her second husband and the usual pile-up of chronic conditions, my Faraway grandmother came to live with her daughter, my mother. But the active and interested woman we had known was gone. She had lost most interest and pleasure in activities that had previously occupied her and seemed unwilling to try new things.
The landmark United States Supreme Court decision that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution has important implications regarding the health and care of older Americans.
Studies show that denying same-sex couples the right to marry has a negative impact on their mental health, according to a 2006 report by Herdt & Kertzner. And a growing body of evidence suggests that policies conferring protections to same-sex couples are linked to lower health care and mental health care utilization, as well as to decreased health care spending.
There also are numerous studies confirming the health benefits of marriage for older heterosexual couples. “Married persons, on the whole, tend to have lower rates of fatal and nonfatal diseases, physical functioning problems, and disability compared to all other marital status groups,” reported Amy M. Pienta et al. in Health Consequences of Marriage for the Retirement Years, published in the Journal of Family Issues in 2000.
The White House Conference on Aging offers a special, once-a-decade opportunity to focus national attention on issues that the John A. Hartford Foundation has been working on every day for more than three decades. So I am honored and excited to be among those invited to attend this year’s gathering on July 13 with President Obama, national leaders, colleagues in the field, and people participating virtually across the country who will all join in a national conversation about our aging nation.
At the John A. Hartford Foundation, our focus is on better care for older Americans. We believe that improving the quality of care and the way it is delivered will result in better health for older adults and lower health care costs for the nation as a whole. “Healthy Aging,” one of four policy briefs drafted for the conference, addresses issues that are integral to the Foundation’s current grantmaking strategies, including managing chronic conditions, and prevention and treatment for diseases and behavioral health conditions.
I fervently hope that the national dialogue sparked by the conference will lead to more widespread recognition of the critical role to be played by health professionals with specific expertise in aging, and will support efforts to develop, test, and widely spread evidence-based models of care for older adults that achieve better health outcomes at lower costs.
The John A. Hartford Foundation was one of just four new awardees chosen in 2012 to serve as an intermediary between SIF and subgrantees implementing innovative care models. As a result, a $3 million federal grant has been matched by $3 million from the John A. Hartford Foundation, with additional matching grants from the subgrantees, to spread the IMPACT/Collaborative Care model in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.
Surrounded by five distinct mountain ranges, Missoula, Montana has been dubbed the Garden City, attracting vacationers and newcomers lured by its natural beauty. It also is considered a hub for services for the surrounding rural and frontier counties.
From left, Terry Fulmer, James D. Farley, and Mathey Mezey at the opening of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nusing at NYU in 1997.
All of us at the John A. Hartford Foundation feel a profound sense of loss at the passing of one of the guiding lights of our mission to improve the health of older Americans: James D. Farley, Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees.
Jim Farley, who died peacefully at home in Hobe Sound, Florida, on June 17, served as a Trustee for 25 years, from 1977-2002, and was Chair for his last 13 years on the board. He was an astute and principled leader, a man of integrity and the highest standards who was always willing to speak his mind.
From right, JAHF’s Amy Berman and Terry Fulmer, Jon Broyles of C-TAC, and Bud Hammes of Respecting Choices engage in the convening.
Imagine Shirley, an 84-year-old woman with end stage renal failure. Her clinician has proposed continuing a daily dialysis treatment that will extend her life, but that is exhausting and uncomfortable. Overwhelmed by her condition, Shirley has little ability to articulate that she may want something different from her care, and her family is similarly unprepared to help her seek out or weigh any available alternatives—for example, medication and homecare.
What would it take to ensure that Shirley and the millions like her at the end of their lives each year receive the high-quality care that meets their unique needs? To help answer this question, the John A. Hartford Foundation (JAHF) recently convened a meeting at its offices in New York City focused on “End of Life and Serious Illness,” gathering leading innovators in the field and funders with deep interest in this area.
It was the first board meeting under the direction of our new President, Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, and it was the last board meeting for our long-time board chair, Norman H. Volk, who is succeeded by Margaret Wolff. Demonstrating the John A. Hartford Foundation’s commitment to our current strategies to create widespread and systemic practice change in health care, the Trustees approved $10.3 million in six new grants to improve the health of older adults, our largest authorization in many years.
The new grants add muscle to four of our five funding areas comprising the Foundation’s current strategic plan. And our fifth strategy, Interprofessional Leadership in Action, is certainly validated by these projects, most of which are the culmination of several years—sometimes decades—of work by leaders in the field of aging and health who we have helped develop and support.
Margaret L. Wolff is the new chair of the John A. Hartford Foundation Board of Trustees.
Moving from strength to strength.
That is how I recently described the John A. Hartford Foundation’s shift in strategic direction from building academic capacity over the past three decades to its current focus on more directly influencing large-scale practice and policy change that improves the health of older adults and their families.
Editor’s Note: The Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) is one of eight primary care community clinics receiving funding through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) initiative to spread the IMPACT program, also known as Collaborative Care, in the rural Pacific Northwest.
The John A. Hartford Foundation was one of just four new awardees chosen in 2012 to serve as an intermediary between SIF and subgrantees implementing innovative care models. As a result, $3 million in federal grants have been matched by $3 million in money from the John A. Hartford Foundation, with additional matching grants from the subgrantees, to spread the IMPACT/Collaborative Care model in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.