My two sisters and I are a team. For several years, as we each juggled our own work and family responsibilities, we willingly took on the role of “advocate” and “coordinator” of health care across settings (home, hospital, nursing home) for my father, who died last year at the age of 94. It wasn’t easy. At times it sapped our energy and our spirits. But we took on the role out of love and a deep respect for our father.
Now we are teaming up again for my mom. We have to – because none of our parents’ health care providers have taken on the critical role of coordinating care, communicating with each other, or linking us to the community supports that older adults need to maintain their independence, functional status, and quality of life. Older adults with multiple health problems, in particular, need doctors, nurses and other health providers who talk to each other and work together – along with the patient and their family caregivers – as a team. That’s the better way, but it’s out of reach for too many patients and families.
That’s why I hope you will get involved in our major new initiative, the Campaign for Better Care. The Campaign’s policy agenda aims to ensure that the reformed health care system provides the comprehensive and coordinated care that older adults with multiple health problems need and deserve. It will advocate at the federal and state levels to ensure that new models of delivering care are patient- and family-centered, team-based, and include important services like geriatric assessment, care planning, comprehensive care coordination, transition management between care settings, medication management, and community support for older adults and their family caregivers. It will promote payment strategies that support primary care practice and reward better quality, coordination and communication among health providers, patients and family caregivers.
May is Older Americans Month – a tradition dating back to 1963 that honors the legacies and ongoing contributions of older Americans. When Older Americans Month was established 47 years ago, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. Today, there are nearly 40 million adults age 65 and older. And with the aging of the baby boom generation – the largest in our history – the U.S. older population is expected to grow to 71.5 million by 2030. In fact, the first baby boomers turn age 65 in 2011 and they will become eligible for Medicare. Will the health care policies of the future meet our needs more adequately than the policies affecting older Americans today?
If the Campaign for Better Care is successful, the answer will be yes! So during this Older Americans Month, let us all honor elders – our fathers, our mothers, our grandparents, great-grandparents, and other older relatives and friends. And let’s celebrate and support the launch of the Campaign for Better Care and work together to improve health care for older Americans and their families.