As a Baby Boomer I’m concerned that our health care system isn’t prepared for the demographic shift about to overtake it.
It’s no secret we are an aging population. So what is the health care system doing to prepare? My health care authority is raising $8 million for a palliative care unit. That sounds good, but what are they doing to actually treat older citizens who may not be terminally ill? How are they keeping them healthy and allowing them to continue to enjoy life?
We have palliative care doctors, but how many gerontologists do we have? US décor and cooking diva Martha Stewart had to deal with finding care for her elderly mother. She investigated and found that there are only 8,000 gerontologists in the United States and that number was declining!
How many gerontologists do we have in Canada? Since I originally asked how many gerontologists there are in Nova Scotia I have learned that there are 10 with this license. I am told that like palliative care doctors, which aren’t a Royal College specialty, the gerontologist role is often performed by general practitioners with a specialization in geriatric medicine. It seems a rather casual approach in a province with such a fast-aging population.
What is the system doing to prepare staff and facilities for older patients? Mostly what are they doing to change their attitudes to the elderly?
I think our system is ageist. It seems to me that we focus more on patients’ exiting this life than extending their lives. There seems to be an assumption that for every elderly person who comes into hospital it’s enough to make them comfortable. No one seems to question or consider that this person, while old, may actually be active, productive and other than the cause which brought them in, able to live a meaningful life. I question if DNR (Do No Resuscitate) isn’t perceived as Do No Treat. Right now we seem to lean more to the Kevorkian school.
In our situation doctors couldn’t tell us what was wrong with the patient. And when I refused to stop blood transfusions – letting someone bleed to death seems too medieval to accept – they treated me like the village idiot, like someone who couldn’t face reality. I can handle death, but I cannot, would not suspend treatments until they could provide a definitive reason why. Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they don’t deserve treatment or consideration. Had I listened to the doctors we wouldn’t have had another 14 months. Our family member wouldn’t have enjoyed sitting in beautiful gardens feeling the sun on her skin, inhaling the aroma of the flowers and sweet perfume of just-mown-grass, or heard birdsong. She wouldn’t have attended concerts and tapped her hand and foot along with the music. She wouldn’t have seen family and friends and enjoyed a real bath and having her hair done. There is a great quality of life to simple things.
Our health care system doesn’t understand any of this. They see diseases, not people. Keep a close rein on them.