Transferring Older Adults from Hospitals to Nursing Homes

Ken Covinsky, MD, a geriatrician at the University of San Francisco (UCSF), recently published a blog on GeriPal  addressing an issue that affects many older adults—problems with transfers from the hospital to the nursing home.  Dr. Covinsky worked with Healthinaging.org to include some specific recommendations for caregivers, who can play an active role in helping to ensure safer transfers between sites of care for their older family members and friends.

Recent Study Shows Poor Communication Between Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Huge numbers of older people are transferred from hospitals to nursing homes.  Often, an older hospitalized patient needs skilled nursing care before they are ready to return home.  In other cases, a nursing home resident who needed hospitalization is returning to the nursing home.  Older patients and their families certainly hope that great communication between the hospital and nursing home will ensure a seamless transition in care.

But a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (click here for a copy of the article) suggests that the quality of communication between the hospital and the nursing home can be very problematic.  The study was led by researchers from the University of Wisconsin, including nurse researcher, Dr. Barbara King, and geriatrician, Dr. Amy Kind.

The authors conducted interviews and focus groups with 27 front-line nurses in skilled nursing facilities.  These nurses noted that very difficult transitions from the hospital to nursing home were common.  Sadly, when asked to give the details of a good transition, none of the nurses were able to think of an example.

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May is Older Americans Month

Flipping through the TV channels while looking for the news the other day, I caught a glimpse of an old movie that got my attention.  It caught my eye because one of the characters was an older man who was so grouchy and uptight that he scared away almost anyone who tried to get close to him. What struck me about this character was how depressed he was.

May is Older Americans’ Month—the month we celebrate older adults and all they have contributed and continue to contribute throughout their lives. The theme of this year’s Older Americans’ Month is “Unleash the Power of Age.”  However, it’s hard to unleash that power— and do all that you can do with it—if you find depression is holding you back.

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National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, and I hope that you will take this time to discuss and document your healthcare 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.  I hope that this message and National Healthcare Decisions Day are all you need.

Please take some time today and have the talk with your loved ones.  There are 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 TwitterFacebook, 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.

 

American Geriatrics Society Helps You “Choose Wisely”

This week, the American Board of International Medicine (ABIM) Foundation published the latest of its ground-breaking Choosing Wisely® “five-things” lists, and I’m pleased to report that one of these new lists comes from the American Geriatrics Society. In case you’re not familiar with these important Choosing Wisely lists, here’s a little background:

Two years ago, the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports launched the Choosing Wisely campaign to encourage people to learn more about the tests and treatments their healthcare providers recommend, and to question and discuss these with their healthcare professionals under certain circumstances. There are two parts to the Choosing Wisely campaign. Numerous medical societies have gone through an in-depth review process to identify five tests or treatments for which there may not be enough medical research that shows safety or effectiveness. In some cases, the research may even show unwanted effects. At the same time, the Foundation and Consumer Reports have been encouraging people to check the lists to see if tests or treatments their healthcare providers have recommended are on them. If so, the campaign urges people to bring this up with their healthcare professionals and discuss it. Continue reading

Heart Healthy Reflections for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a time of flowers, chocolate hearts, and celebrations of love and life.  For thousands of years, the heart has symbolized love and passion and has inspired great poetry, literature, art, and music. But maybe this year we should start a new tradition on Valentine’s Day: To check in with ourselves and those around us to look for signs of heart disease.

There are several types of heart disease, with coronary artery disease being the most common. It is estimated that more than 80 million Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.

All told, some one million people a year will die of heart disease. Though one of the risk factors is advancing age, more than 150,000 heart disease and stroke deaths every year are among people younger than 65. With the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in children, we will likely see increased rates of heart disease and stroke occurring at earlier ages. Continue reading