In April the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its latest report and recommendations about what needs to be done to build the health care workforce to care for an aging population. The report, Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce, provides a snapshot of the health care challenges posed by elderly patients living with multiple chronic conditions, and highlights the increasingly complex health needs of this rapidly aging population and the inability of the nation’s current health care workforce to meet these needs.
The role of caregiver for a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be a stressful one. Caring for someone with a memory-related disease is more stressful than helping someone with a physical injury. Due to the demands of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, caregivers tend to neglect their own health care and well-being. One study shows that up to 47 percent of family caregivers experience depression, but with the right resources, caregivers can successfully balance their time and provide the care their loved ones need.
Falls are a menace to older adults and our overstrained health care system. The direct medical costs of falls among older adults now total more than $19 billion, most of which must be absorbed by Medicare and Medicaid. A new bill recently passed by Congress seeks to address the problem of falls, but will have little impact without adequate funding.
In April 2008, the renowned surgeon Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., joined a very exclusive society. Under the imposing dome of the Capitol Rotunda, President Bush presented DeBakey with the nation’s highest civilian honor—the Congressional Gold Medal—whose past recipients include George Washington, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and Jonas Salk. DeBakey, who will be 100 years old on September 7, 2008, was characteristically articulate and forward-thinking in his acceptance remarks, urging his audience to pursue health care reform.