Ask any mayor, business person, or volunteer coordinator what they’d find most valuable to help their organization grow and their answers would probably focus on a single word: resources. The “three Ts”—time, talent, and treasure—go a long way toward allowing individuals, groups, and even whole communities to operate to their fullest potential. And they’re increasingly important in cases where “demand” must keep up with “supply.”
That’s certainly true for healthcare professionals who are working to keep innovation apace of growth for the older adult population in the U.S. By 2030, the number of people 65-years-old or older in America will exceed 70 million—double the number of older adults in 2000. These men and women will need specially trained professionals who understand how to address the complex healthcare needs of older adults.
Unfortunately, federal budget cuts have impacted not only the number of opportunities for current and future health professionals, but also the research needed to increase and improve our knowledge of aging.
Results of an American Geriatrics Society survey1 reveal how these budget cuts have created serious problems for geriatrics health professionals and the older adults they care for:
- Job Loss. Nearly 60% of professionals who responded to the survey reported that, in the last five years, federal budget cuts or breaks in grant programs resulted in faculty or research staff lay-offs or the elimination of certain research programs. Specially trained researchers, statisticians, administrative staff, and research nurses were among those most affected. Sadly, these men and women are essential to pushing science and research forward.
- Investigator Anxiety. The AGS survey indicated that 87% of respondents were also “very” or at least “moderately” worried that funding issues would prevent them from maintaining labs or research programs in the next 10 years. These concerns could discourage experienced and promising young researchers from pursuing careers in geriatrics.
- Decreased Full-Time Positions. The vast majority of survey participants reported that the number of full-time positions they could offer for people committed to aging research decreased or stayed the same compared to 2008 levels. Little or no job growth can put important advancements at risk and result in fewer young scholars dedicating themselves to working with older adults.
Investments in Aging Research Yield Success
Despite these concerns, federally funded research continues to improve the health of older Americans by creating new models for healthcare, diagnostic methods, and treatment options. Respondents to the AGS survey cited many examples of advances arising from federally funded research, including: Continue reading
If your loved one suffers a bout of delirium, it can be a frightening and unsettling experience for all concerned. Delirium, a sudden change in mental function, can cause an extreme variety of behavioral changes, ranging from aggressive and agitated to sleepy and inactive—sometimes, even a combination of both.
When delirium occurs after an older person has had surgery, it’s called postoperative delirium. It’s good to know that your hospital’s healthcare providers and your family can work together to help manage and improve delirium, as these family caregivers discovered:
“After he had heart surgery, I noticed that my 86-year-old father was confused and not behaving like himself. Based on the delirium prevention information I found on HealthinAging.org, I was able to talk with my family and my father’s healthcare team about the signs of delirium and ways we could help my father feel more oriented in his hospital surroundings. We made sure to have family members around him. We read him the newspaper, got him walking, and kept him engaged as much as possible.
I’m pleased to say his recovery has been remarkable. Had his delirium not been addressed so quickly, I know the outcome could have been very different. As a caregiver, I was thrilled to have reliable health information that guided me in asking the right questions of my father’s healthcare providers.”
- Vivien, A Family Caregiver
We at the Health in Aging Foundation are saddened by the loss of Maya Angelou today. In 2002, we presented Ms. Angelou with the Lifetime of Caring Award for her embodiment of graceful aging. It was a festive occasion that included Ms. Angelou charming the crowd with a few lines of “This Little Light of Mine” and leading a standing ovation for the Girls Choir of Harlem. In her remarks she reminded us to live a full, rich life and not take its everyday gifts for granted. She closed with a few lines from her poem, On Aging.
When you see me sitting quietly, like a sack upon a shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering. I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me! Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it, otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching and my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor: Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling, don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy and every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then, a little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.
Today, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day. I hope that you will take this time to discuss and document your healthcare wishes, or talk to your family members about their wishes. We all need to be prepared in the event of a health crisis, and having the talk is easier than most people think, but many of us need a little inspiration or a reminder to do it.
National Healthcare Decisions Day was established to inspire, educate & empower the public & providers about the importance of advance care planning. You can find all sorts of free resources, including free advance directive forms for each of the 50 states and a great short video to get you thinking and talking, on the NHDD website: www.nhdd.org. Additionally, please help spread the word with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Advance care planning is something we ALL should do and encourage others to do, regardless of age or current health. Discussing your wishes can be one of the most important gifts you ever give your loved ones.
Related Resources from Healthinaging.org:
Advance Directives: Basic Facts & Information
Guide to Advanced Directives
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