Greetings from New Orleans and the 2013 Gerontological Society of America (GSA) meeting. As usual, many John A. Hartford Foundation staff are at the meeting to learn from the experts in the field, to work with our grantees, and to answer questions from anyone interested in improving the care of older adults.
We are particularly excited about the launch of our new Change AGEnts program. Anyone ever associated with a Hartford-funded project is invited to join us at the Change AGEnts Initiative launch event on Friday, Nov. 22, from 6:30-8p.m. (Sheraton Hotel, Grand Ballroom C). Visit our Change AGEnts page to RSVP and learn more!
Of course, we are also very proud of the accomplishments of our current grantees and friends. I’d like to recognize several who are being honored here this week.
If our shift in strategy moves our focus from “upstream” academic capacity building to a “downstream” emphasis on the determinants of practice, these vanguard leaders are shooting the rapids and teaching us what can be done with geriatric expertise.
David Solomon, MD, was a pioneer of geriatric medicine.
Last week, the world lost one of the giants of American medicine and a founder of modern geriatrics, Dr. David Solomon, who passed away on July 9 at the age of 90.
“Lost,” however, is not really the right word. While I never had the honor of meeting Dr. Solomon, I can say with certainty that his legacy lives on through the people he mentored, the field he helped build, and the vision of care for older adults that continues to guide much of what we and our grantees do.
Arthur, with his beloved Yorkshire Terrier Charlie, from the story “Man’s Best Friend.”
The John A. Hartford Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of its first annual Heroes of Geriatric Care story contest. Back at the end of January, we started publicizing the contest particularly seeking “stories that convey how a person with geriatric expertise (in any profession and discipline) can save the day when those without couldn’t get the job done; where special knowledge and hard-won skill in geriatric training programs make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
As a communications vehicle, stories are powerful, able to convey a great deal of complex information in a compact, engaging form. We need good stories to engage others in why they should care about our common work in geriatrics, and invite them to join us. We need stories to provide an emotional complement to the incisive logical arguments on behalf of the field and our programs. And our own stories can also teach us about ourselves, can reveal how we and others perceive this work.
At the American Geriatrics Society meeting a few weeks ago, I—along with most of the attendees—was spellbound by Dr. Diane Meier‘s Henderson Award lecture on the issues confronting geriatrics and palliative care and our profound failure to deliver useful care to those with incurable serious illnesses.
Amy Berman, left, with geriatrician and social media maven Wen Dombrowski at TEDMED 2013.
Earlier this month, I attended my very first TEDMED in Washington, D.C. I had butterflies in my stomach because I was asked to provide opening remarks on the final day of TEDMED, at a convening on The Great Challenges of Health Care.
As a person living with serious illness, I was charged with speaking from the heart and grounding a discussion about the Role of the Patient. And as a professional who works on one of the biggest challenges health care faces—how to best care for a rapidly growing older adult population—excitement didn’t come close to describing how I felt. Thrilled? Terrified? Much closer.
This past weekend I sat with some of the top leaders in geriatrics and heard them rail against usual care for older adults by specialists and non-geriatrically trained generalists. They complained bitterly about oncologists who wildly overtreat the frail and yet undertreat the vigorous, cardiac procedures done without patient benefit, and silo mentalities that predictably put complexly ill people on trajectories of misadventure, hospital readmission, and decline.
However, in public, I know that most professionals will not break the white-coat wall of silence and denounce their colleagues for inappropriate care. And so, the fact that non-geriatrically informed care doesn’t have to be our usual care escapes most people. Unless you’ve been very lucky and seen someone receive geriatrically skilled, compassionate, and patient-centered care, you don’t know what you’re missing. And it is very hard to create demand for things that no one knows.
As I thought about this problem, I realized that I had also heard many of those same railing voices talk about how to deliver good care to older adults—not in a conference room or a big meeting, but all by myself while running on the treadmill at my local Y. Not an hypoxia-induced hallucination, but really real.
Chris Langston, right, with his younger sister Anne, mother Adair, and grandmother Nancy Imber, circa late 1970s. Did someone with geriatric expertise make a difference in your family’s life?
There are just four more weeks left in the John A. Hartford Foundation’s new Heroes of Geriatric Care story contest (due April 15—like taxes). We’ve received a few submissions (and a lot of questions), but we want more.
Part of the reason for having the contest is that we want to discover the variety of ideas and experiences out in the world without unduly influencing anyone’s thinking. Nevertheless at this point, I thought it might be helpful to give a few examples of geriatrics hero stories.
March 2nd marked what would have been Dr. Seuss’ 109th birthday (Theodor Seuss Geisel, Born: 1904, Died: 1991). I have always been a big Seuss fan, but even more so after my 7-year-old son recently checked out Dr. Seuss’ You’re Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children from his school library. (“Because you like old people, Mom.”)
It is a fantastic patient-centered read and a hilariously sad reflection of our health care system.
“This small white pill is what I munch At breakfast and right after lunch. I take the pill that’s Kelly green Before each meal and in between.
Patient engagement has been all the rage this week. Health Affairs held a DC briefing for their February issue focused on the topic, highlighting new evidence that patients engaged in their own health care have better health outcomes and can possibly cost the system less.
Our own Amy Berman, a crusader for patient engagement, was on the planning committee for the special issue funded by several of our favorite colleague foundations (she also gave a keynote speech to primary care providers in Massachusetts on this very topic a few days ago).
One of the Health Affairs articles features The Conversation Project, a grassroots national campaign to get more people actively engaged in end-of-life health care choices with their families and loved ones, before a crisis occurs. Health care systems and professionals also have to be “conversation ready.” They must be able and willing to meet the wishes of these activated patients.