Amy Berman, on a recent trip to Hawaii. “I have done so much more than survive. I have thrived.”
The end of October marked five years since I was diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, a life-limiting disease. A small fraction of people (11-20 percent) in my situation survive to five years.
Clearly, I have survived. But I have done so much more than survive. I have thrived. I still work and enjoy a great life. I feel good. And unlike most people with my medical condition, I’ve never been hospitalized—no surgery and none of the combination infusions. I take medication to hold back the cancer but, with my team, I choose treatments with the least burden and side effects. And this has helped me thrive!
Each year, the program staff of the John A. Hartford Foundation attend a three-day meeting with foundations known as Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), an affinity group representing local, regional and national funders that share our interest in improving the lives of older adults.
Some funders, like the John A. Hartford Foundation, are focused on improving the health of older adults. Others focus on a diverse range of interests, including the provision of direct services, arts and aging, economic security, age-friendly communities, and workforce.
There are two main reasons why the GIA annual conferenceis one of the most important events of the year for me and my colleagues at the John A. Hartford Foundation:
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.
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.
This week we offer a poignant story of one physician’s struggle to understand what he could do to help his aging and ailing new patient. Written by Dr. Mitch Kaminski, and originally posted on Pulse, a leading narrative medicine website, this true tale makes the point that if we don’t understand a person’s own personal health goal, we are unlikely to achieve it.
We are unlikely to help them.
The John A. Hartford Foundation is deeply committed to aligning care by all health care providers to address the goals of older patients. As people age and become much more medically complex and frail, well-intended treatments may not help with pain or function. The treatment may create new problems and burdens.
For two decades, the John A. Hartford Foundation has invested in the development and spread of the Hospital at Home model of care, which provides safe, high-quality, hospital-level care to older adults with select conditions in the comfort of their own home.
Over those years, studies have consistently shown that the model delivers improved care and outcomes at lower costs. But adoption has been limited, leading us to conclude that Hospital at Home was ahead of its time.
Amy Berman prepares for her image guided radiation therapy.
I live with stage IV cancer—cancer that has spread to the far reaches of my body, an incurable disease, a terminal diagnosis. But if you saw me—if our carts randomly bumped into each other in the supermarket—you would never think I live with serious illness.
And let me add that I feel as well as I look, just great.
Funders share information on investments in palliative care at the recent convening spearheaded by the Hartford Foundation.
Palliative care is an essential component of care for the seriously ill. Yet, the term is often misunderstood by policymakers, the public, health care providers, and, no surprise, even those in philanthropy.
The John A. Hartford Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the spread of high-quality palliative care through its funding of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), led by Diane Meier, MD (see Celebrating CAPC and Our 500th Blog Post!). Dr. Meier often refers to palliative care as an “extra layer of support” for the seriously ill and their families.
Jessie Gruman, founding president of the Center for Advancing Health, died on July 14 after a fifth bout with cancer. Jessie was a hero to patients, families, and health care providers for her selfless work to help people better understand their role and responsibilities in supporting their own health.