America’s opioid epidemic has reached crisis proportions, enough so that last week the United States Surgeon General took the unprecedented step of sending a letter to 2.3 million American health care professionals asking them to take a pledge to “turn the tide” on the opioid crisis.
Relieving pain is an essential element of good care, and we are appropriately reminded that the use of these powerful medications requires precision, caution, and perspective.
But something very important is missing from this prescription: a recognition of the needs and health challenges of older adults.
In recognition of its successful collaboration with a health care system, we are proud to announce that the Southern Maine Agency on Aging (SMAA) is the first winner of The John A. Hartford Foundation Business Innovation Award. We congratulate SMAA for its bold, transformative work to improve the quality of life for older adults and/or people with disabilities through this sustainable business partnership.
JAHF President Terry Fulmer, right, with Tom Koutsoumpas, co-founder of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) and President and CEO of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI), at the Roundtable meeting.
As I listened to the impressive group of highly knowledgeable and dedicated health care professionals, patients, and caregivers discuss this important topic, I found myself thinking about my mother. She is obsessed with end-of-life planning. Maybe obsessed is too strong a word, but she does talk about it a lot, and she feels strongly about her preferences in the face of serious illness or critical care.
We are very pleased to announce five new grants totaling $4.8 million approved by The John A. Hartford Foundation Board of Trustees in June that target critical gaps that exist in providing comprehensive, age-specific, coordinated care to older adults and their families.
Each of these exciting projects supports the work of innovative organizations and individuals, and all relate to emerging priorities that we see as critical over the next several years.
Through a new initiative that brings together national leaders in the move to improve home-based primary care, we are bridging the gap in care for the frailest, sickest homebound elders for whom house calls could be a saving grace. We are also addressing important gaps in health care policy related to palliative care, hospital admission status, and oral health through outreach, education, and advocacy. And through a potentially game-changing partnership with Kaiser Health News (KHN), we are addressing the gap in high-quality news coverage and public understanding about the complex issues of health care delivery and its impact on older adults and their families.
Editor’s Note: Today, we welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ellen Goodman, co-founder and director of The Conversation Project, to Health AGEnda. The Conversation Project is part of a $3.5 million John A. Hartford Foundation grant approved in March supporting an exciting collaborative of six practitioners who will work cooperatively to expand the availability and improve the quality of advance care planning and end-of-life care. Since it was launched in 2010, The Conversation Project has focused on helping families and friends talk openly about their wishes for end-of-life care in a way that makes sure those wishes are not only expressed, but respected.
When we launched The Conversation Project, we knew the importance of encouraging people to express their wishes for end-of-life care before there was a crisis. In a survey we did, people often gave the same excuse for not having the conversation: “it’s too soon.” To which we always replied, “It’s always too soon, until it’s too late.”
There is nothing that shows the wisdom of that statement more than the terrible experiences of families and friends whose loved ones suffer from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We—and my family is part of that “we”—often feel tragically unable to have these important conversations after someone we love goes into cognitive decline.
Each year, staff of The John A. Hartford Foundation look forward to May and the annual scientific meeting of long-time grantee and partner, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). This year’s meeting in Long Beach, CA will once again offer us the chance to showcase the work of grantees, learn about the latest advances in aging and health research, meet with colleagues in the field, and celebrate those who have made important contributions to improving care for older adults.
Wally Patawaran’s mother, Emma, in Seville, Spain, before her first stroke.
“My mother understands everything we’re saying.”
My brother was addressing the latest home health aide, giving her an orientation. She nodded on cue, but it seemed clear that she was giving this latest assignment a look-over before signing on. She could have been forgiven for wondering about the truth of the statement.
In 1965, the Older Americans Act set in motion a new network of largely community-based social services and supports to help older adults remain healthy and independent, living in their homes and communities as long as possible.
On April 19, 2016, after legislation garnered bipartisan support from both houses of Congress, President Obama signed the latest and long-overdue reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. This is great news for millions of older adults, and truly a cause for celebration as we embark on Older Americans Month in May. This year’s theme, appropriately enough, is “Blaze a Trail.” And it is one that resonates deeply with all of us at The John A. Hartford Foundation, given our own trailblazing work in improving the care of older adults.
From right, Amy Berman, John A. Hartford Foundation President Terry Fulmer, Jon Broyles of C-TAC, and Bud Hammes of Respecting Choices engage in a convening held in June 2015 by JAHF on “End of Life and Serious Illness.”
The John A. Hartford Foundation’s dedicated staff is constantly monitoring the dynamic health care landscape to identify powerful opportunities for large-scale change that will result in better care and better lives for all older adults. I am very pleased to announce that our Trustees last week approved three new grants totaling $6.7 million that leverage these opportunities.
One of the keys to effective grantmaking is to partner with innovative leaders at the very top of their fields. That is certainly true of the Foundation’s new grants.
“This report is really about success,” says Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation. “Life expectancy has almost doubled since the 1900s, from 40 years to 80 years today. The number of adults over age 65 also is projected to almost double in the coming decades, from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million by 2050. This is truly remarkable and something to celebrate. However, we now need to achieve the same level of success in meeting the care needs of this growing aging population.”