Striking Hole In Health Care For The Very Old : I have mentioned earlier in other articles and on my blog that I have the unique opportunity to directly care for a very elderly family member.
I didn’t initially see the whole deal as an opportunity, but something to be afraid of. As I got into the process I learned that though there are many programs available for additional help. Eligibility for this assistance depends on your subject’s health concerns and financial situation.
These programs often provide for bathing, routine maintenance checks, and also help with household chores. In some cases, as is the case with my family, our relatives have primary care doctors. Her doctors have been with her for about a decade and have a wealth of experience in providing primary care for the elderly. However, in most cases, elderly patients do not have a long-term doctor. This is because they may not have good insurance to continue to see the doctor regularly. Even if they have a primary doctor assigned, there is often no consistent relationship.
Personal relationships are very important in elderly care because when you have been with your doctor for a long time, they know you well. They can anticipate problems before they occur. The treatment is better. We obviously have a huge advantage because we have doctors who specialize in geriatric care.
Combination of Aging Population and Lack of Geriatric Specialists Creating Demand
The American Geriatrics Society recently provided some surprising figures regarding the gap between geriatric specialists and the patients who need their care. Worse, the gap will widen much deeper over the next decade to twenty years.
There is hope that internal medicine doctors can overcome shortcomings like my brother. It should be noted however that if my relative had not been in contact with this doctor when he did, he probably would have had no trouble finding a qualified regular doctor. Many others were clearly not so lucky.
The elderly have special care needs in the areas of eating, resting, medication balance, pain management, and simply dealing with reduced energy. One big problem is that geriatrics is one of the lowest paying specialties. For many doctors, student loan repayment obligations mean you have to pay more.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that the numbers will increase if at all for geriatric specialists. One solution that may become more commonly alluded to above and held is one in which nurses and health care aides carry out a larger plan of care drawn up by a geriatrician.
In this way, patients benefit from hands-on care without worrying about knowledge gaps. My advice is if you are in the position of having to care for an elderly patient, contact your local aging division (usually at the district level) and ask the questions you need answered. The number of options will likely vary from place to place. Option positivity seems to be growing at the moment.