Health AGEnda

End of Life Care: A Journey Through Our Archives

It’s August and with various staff out on vacations, we decided to collaborate on some posts that review key topics on Health AGEnda. End of life care is one such recurring theme. Why do we write about it so often? Because with most health care expenditures coming within the last few weeks of life, coupled with a widespread dissatisfaction among patients with spending their final days in the hospital undergoing often-futile treatments, the way we approach this care is ripe with opportunities for reform.

What can we do to improve end of life care for patients and families? Read on for our collective thinking on this issue.

First of all, we need to improve communication. There are a number of ways to do this: Continue reading

A New Face Joins the Team

As the newest member of the program staff, I’m delighted to introduce myself and share my excitement about the work we do with our grantees here at the John A. Hartford Foundation.

My journey to the field of health and aging and to the Foundation started nearly a decade ago.  Like many people who get involved in our line of work, my formative experience was very personal, in my case, losing my father.  Reflecting on the circumstances that took him from the family sooner than we imagined led me to a path of personal inquiry into the area of health care for older adults.  In time I came to understand how fragmented care delivery, ill-suited as it was to my father’s health and age, had cost us all dearly.

As I learned about the issues surrounding the care of older adults, I would discover the painful fact that my father’s trajectory and subsequent death might have been averted with coordinated care from an interdisciplinary team with expertise in geriatrics and gerontology.  What we, his family, should have demanded was something that ought to be available without fail to all elderly patients with multiple comorbidities.  Of course, that need is complicated by the reality that patients and families in complex and stressful circumstances don’t always have time to study their options; that too few institutions promote a holistic view of patient care; and that, as followers of the Foundation know too well, there are too few physicians, nurses, and social workers with such training.

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Care of Older Adults Headlines at “Health Journalism 2011” Conference

It felt different this year.  For the second time, John A. Hartford Foundation staff and our communications partners, SCP, attended the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.  We once again sponsored the meeting and exhibited materials from our grantees.  We talked to reporters about the critical need for a better trained workforce and improved models of health care delivery for frail, vulnerable elders.  But instead of having to push, prod, and explain, it felt like the issues we care about were at the top of the “newsworthy” list.  With Medicare policy proposals currently pouring in and increasing recognition that controlling health care costs hinges on how we manage complex chronic conditions, end-of-life care, and long-term care – the journalists seemed to seek us out, hungry for information about our work.   

Elliott Walker of SCP at Hartford Booth

Luckily, they also got to hear first-hand from a few of our grantees and friends in the field.  Mary Naylor spoke on a panel about the Transitional Care Model and its potential to reduce hospital re-admissions, along with Dorie Seavey of PHI, Kathleen Kelly from the Family Caregiver Alliance, and Emily Saltz of Elder Resources.    

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Booster Shots and Going Viral: Hartford Scholars Learn Communications Skills, Part II

In Part I of this post, I shared a little about the eighth annual Hartford Interdisciplinary Communications Conference, which brings together emerging academic experts in gerontological nursing, medicine, and social work to help improve their ability to communicate about their work.  After hearing “Gamblin’ Man” performed by David Honeyboy Edwards, a 94-year old blues legend at the conference, I reflected in the post that I saw gambling as a theme for the meeting.  

Participants Nancy Kelley-Gillespie and Fay Martin with facilitator John Beilenson

Gambling was not only a theme but also, coincidentally, the topic of two outstanding participants’ research. Fay Martin, DL, MSW, MSL, Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar  at Wayne State University School of Social Work in Detroit, MI, was researching the effect of problem gambling on older adults’ lives and health. “Casinos are the new senior centers,” she shared with me during a presentation of her research.  “This is a concern, because problem gambling is an invisible addiction that has the potential to put older adults at risk of not only mental, physical, and health issues, but also financial disaster.”  Dr. Martin attended the conference so she could learn to distill the main points of her research in order to get more attention on this “invisible” problem. 

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