What we’re doing in 2016, thanks to your support…

Nancy Lundebjerg casualNancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

“I have never seen myself doing anything other than helping older adults.”
—Christian E. Gausvik, AGS Student Leadership Council Chair, aspiring geriatrician, and medical student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Even if I weren’t the CEO of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), I would love this statement.

Christian is logging 80-hour weeks and 36-hour shifts as a third-year medical student, but he still found time to organize our student engagement group, and he even launched his own charity event benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association in Cincinnati. Christian represents the future of eldercare in several important ways: he’s not only pursuing a career in geriatrics but he’s also one of several trainees receiving special support and assistance from the AGS’s Health in Aging Foundation.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Foundation because of the tip sheets and resources you’ve found right here at HealthinAging.org. Developing these is a critical part of what we do, but it doesn’t end there. Since 1999, the Foundation has been providing public education about the health and well-being of older adults while also supporting people like Christian who represent the future of geriatrics.

We’ve been hard at work on both of these fronts since 1999, and last year alone we made some pretty impressive progress:

  • We helped 75 health professions students travel to the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting, where they were able to present their own research and learn from other experts and mentors.
  • We developed some important new recommendations about medication safety for older adults, and we created a whole suite of online tools to make that guidance easier to understand for older adults and caregivers.
  • We supported the Surgeon General’s call to action on walking by compiling tips and resources to help older adults, their caregivers, and their healthcare professionals scale physical activity to make it fun and achievable for older individuals.
    We provided nearly 1 million older adults and caregivers with resources and information through HealthinAging.org.

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Aging and Vision Problems

Alice Pomidor & John Reynolds

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Alice Pomidor, MD, MPH, AGSF
Florida State University School of Medicine

Mary Palmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, AGSF
Helen W. and Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging
UNC School of Nursing

Your eyes are your windows on the world, so it’s wise to protect your vision, especially as you age. Although not all older adults will experience vision problems, many people will experience age-related changes. While many vision problems are easy to correct with prescription lenses or brighter lighting, other problems require medical treatment. These include:

Cataracts. This age-related vision problem occurs when the lens in one or both of your eyes becomes cloudy. By age 80, more than half of all Americans will either have a cataract or will have had surgery to correct a cataract. Symptoms include dullness, blurriness, or a brownish tint to your vision. As cataracts gradually get worse, vision problems become more noticeable. Although complete healing takes about a month, cataract surgery can immediately and dramatically improve your vision. During the procedure, the surgeon will implant a clear, plastic lens—like a permanent contact lens. Cataract surgery is safe and effective for most people, no matter what their age, health, or mental status. Medicare and most insurance plans cover the costs of the procedure.

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). The macula is a very small structure within the eye that helps you see fine details. When it begins to degenerate (fail), your central (straight ahead) vision can become distorted. People with ARMD will keep their peripheral (side) vision, and training can help them make the most of their lowered ability to see. There are a number of aids that can help people with ARMD, including magnifying lenses, large print items, speech software for computers, and computer and video enlargement systems. Continue reading

Updated Tip Sheets on HealthinAging.org

footerLogo_w_taglineWe are pleased to announce that thanks to the work of AGS’s Public Education Committee, 24 of our tip sheets have been updated on www.HealthinAging.org.  Covering topics such as winter safety, improving your memory, and geriatric syndromes, the HIA tip sheets provide easy-to-understand guidance for older adults and their caregivers on topics relevant to older adult health and well-being.

The Cost of Aging

[This is a guest post from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.]

People are now living longer than ever before. This trend is most likely a result of health advancements throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The treatment of heart disease and infectious diseases as well as immunizations have contributed to longer lives. By 2050, people ages 65 and older will make up more than 20 percent of the U.S population. Also by 2050, all living baby boomers will be over 85 years old. However, a growth in the aging population does not necessarily mean an increase in healthy aging. Aging comes with a need for long-term care, help with daily activities, and financial assistance. These needs increase for people older than 85. The growing aging population presents a new set of challenges for health care professionals and policymakers. But primarily, it will be seniors and their caregivers who must cope with the physical, emotional, and financial ramifications of aging.

Most people want to remain in their homes as they age. As a result, the demand for caregivers is expected to grow in the coming years. Currently, there are not enough caregivers to meet this demand. Many professional caregivers are underpaid and undertrained. Family members often have no training at all. As the percentage of seniors living in skilled-nursing facilities decreases, the role of caregivers will become even more important to the overall health of the aging population.

MPH@GW, the online Master of Public Health offered through the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, created the following infographic to help explain the economic implications of a growing aging population  in the U.S. for older Americans, their families, and professional caregivers.

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What Does it Mean When We Talk About “Person-Centered Care”?

Nancy Lundebjerg resized


Nancy Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

Bruce A. Chernof, MD, FACP
President & Chief Executive Officer
The SCAN Foundation


Are YOU at the center of your own health and care? It may seem like an obvious question, but it’s an important one to consider since our medical system has often focused on treating illnesses rather than caring for people with illnesses.

That’s because the medical system usually measures success as decreasing the negative effects of disease. That’s an important aim, but ask any person what “well-being” looks like and they’re likely to talk more about being able to live well in spite of disease. This divide can be especially difficult to navigate for older adults with complex health problems: owing to the status of their health, older people may feel like they have a limited say in how they are treated by a network of primary care providers and specialists, with various family members and caregivers expressing their own points of view, too.

How do we better connect to people when it comes to elder health and care? A group of experts recently convened by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) with support from The SCAN Foundation has taken steps toward answering that question by helping to define an innovative approach to health care: person-centered care.

Based on a broad review of existing research, as well as findings from interviews with health and social service organization leaders, the expert panel defined person-centered care as “care in which individuals’ values and preferences are elicited and, once expressed, guide all aspects of their health care, supporting their realistic health and life goals.”

A person-centered care approach starts with gathering information about the values and preferences of a person in light of health status, with input from family or others important to the person when desired. When reviewed along with a traditional health assessment by a healthcare provider, this person-centered information is used to help shape and articulate specific goals based on what an older person wants and needs from care. Rather than being driven only by clinical outcomes, these goals are directed by how a person wants to function and what he or she hopes to accomplish when thinking about future well-being.

So what can you do to make health and care more person-centered? Well, the group of experts brought together by the AGS identified several “essential” elements of person-centered approaches to health care.  While no two experiences of person-centered care will be the same (they are, after all, person-centered!), recognizing when and how you can discuss the following with your healthcare providers is an important step toward ensuring you’re at the center of your own well-being:

  • An individualized, goal-oriented care plan based on your own expressed preferences.
  • An ongoing review of your goals and care plan (including opportunities to reassess the plan regularly to address health status changes over time).
  • Care supported by a team of healthcare providers with different kinds of expertise, and with you as a key member of the team.
  • One primary contact on the healthcare team who is responsible for communicating information and coordinating care with you and all the other team members.
  • Continual information sharing and communication between you, family, and all healthcare and supportive service providers.
  • Education and training about person-centered care for providers and, when appropriate, for you and your caregivers.

The Health in Aging Foundation has some great resources to help you learn more about the importance of person-centered care.  You can read about the expert panel’s research in one of the Foundation’s latest research summaries available here, and you can even use this quick-reference guide as a conversation starter between you and your healthcare providers.  Want even more information? Check out materials from the AGS and The SCAN Foundation, too!

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Nancy Lundebjerg, MPA, is CEO of the American Geriatrics Society

Bruce Chernof, MD, is president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation