Healthcare in an Aging Society

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We do have a rising aging population, and healthcare challenges how we are going to take care of more people better. And I think that's the fundamental question. Taking care of people isn't always just providing medicine, or just providing health care because then many people particularly when they age need a whole set of social supports.

You know if they don't have food, can't get to the grocery store and can't cook for themselves that's a real concern maybe even more than their blood pressure medication or getting annual check up. So, as people age there's a whole other series of supports that they need and we don't really have a healthcare system or even a long term services system designed to meet those needs.

Right now, people have to pull together their own system of care and sometimes they use their family or social network. They call their friends. They move a family member into their own house. My grandmother lived with us for 40 years. Other times they may use pirate system of care so, higher outside caregivers or care workers to come and help an individual who needs assistance in a variety of ways.

And other times they may need public support, and we have actually not much help through the medicare system, which doesn't provide long term services and support. But medicaid, you've really gone through all of your assets, you can't qualify for medicaid and get help. Particularly in the states that provide home and community based services, so that you can stay in your home which most people want to do.

I think doctors need more training about how to talk to an older population who maybe hard of hearing, maybe sensitive to particular words, and that's why more geriatrics training that we can have as part of the general medical education the better. The more geriatricians who are very specialized in caring for the body is in needs and minds of health conditions of people with multiple chronic conditions the better.

We just make it very difficult for people to find their own way and that's one of the reasons why AOP has put out a resource of our own, dedicated to family caregivers. That's aop.org/caregiving and people can go there and talk to experts, get directed to resources within there community.

My optimism about the future is more of a desperation for need for solutions. I think we're in many ways at the tip of this iceberg that we saw coming for 60 years and really haven't planned either for the healthcare needs to social services needs, the needs of a larger families, and we're not there with all of the solutions because it's not just one easy thing that you can flip and change and all will be better.

So, I think we really need to have a larger conversation about what it means to have an aging society and what are the things we need to put in place.