Depending on where you are located throughout America, there are various levels of activities, locations and resource centers available for the elderly. In Bridgewater for example, a new wellness center was opened for seniors. Set up by the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, this Main Street location was opened at a ceremony that coincided with Older Americans Month. According to Patricia Walsh, the Director of the Freeholders, “With its proximity to the Adult Day Center, the opening of this center completes the vision Somerset County has had for a senior campus that serves the needs of residents as they go through the various stages of aging.” Indeed, this was not just a metaphorical but also a literal statement of fact since the construction of the pedestrian bridge forms a link between the Adult Day Center and the Senior Wellness Center.
Bonne Terre seniors can also enjoy some improvement in their facilities. The current address for the Bonne Terre Nutrition Center and Senior Center is changing due to expansions. According to Jim Eaton, the institution’s City Administration, it will be set up as follows: a nutrition center that will focus exclusively on diet, supplements and food guides and then a separate senior center to manage all other activities. Given that there will be apartments as well, this will provide a great opportunity for the city to use different organizations.
So these are two great examples of where life is good for seniors. Now, if only seniors in Brunswick County were privy to this kind of treatment and resources. Unfortunately though it is not the case. Instead, seniors meet twice a week at the Town Creek Park in a place that is not theirs at all. They may share a meal together and play games but thereafter they have to fold up all the tables and chairs and store them; in fact everything needs to put away, even the kettle! This is more than just frustrating as one of the seniors, Sandra Tyner explained: “We want something of our own so we don’t have to do all this getting out and putting away. We just need a place that we can call home.”
And it’s not for want of trying. Indeed, over the last few months a group of dedicated speakers have been active at county commissioner meetings, politely reminding county leaders they want a senior center in the Bolivia/Town Creek area. Thankfully something finally seems to be moving as a local church recently committed to donating some land for the purpose of building a senior center and now the county is investigating capital funding for a building.
It seems only right that there should be some kind of more equal distribution of resources for the elderly around the country so hopefully within the very near future, the Bolivia/Town Creek area will become more like Somerset County and Bonne Terre.
There is always room for improvement with assisted living facilities. This can come from either the organization itself or policy makers. In terms of the latter, the Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly Reform Act of 2014 was introduced by state legislators in California. Should this become law, there will be additional checks and balances at the facilities, increased training, an online consumer information system and more.
Such checks would be carried about the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division. There would be “surprise” visits, which would take place at least once a year. These extensive inspections would replace the current five year checkups. In addition, the Department would also be forced to initiate and execute investigations more efficiently and faster.
Enhancing assisted living facilities is not something new to the likes of Daniel Straus, Healthbridge. As CEO, he believes that it is “gratifying” to be able to respond to extremely high standards of care, safety and services. Facilities Straus has developed seek to provide a high level of care, to reassure families of residents that those in care are enjoying the utmost support to efficiently enhance dignity and quality of life. Residents in Straus’ facilities live in an environment in which their needs are met through thoughtful and diligent staff members in line with Straus’ goal of creating a “standard of excellence in healthcare,” in which he takes pride.
So with new legislation and dedicated, thoughtful healthcare staff and management, there is every chance assisted living facilities will become stronger and more vibrant in 2014.
The Senior Center in Washington Park recently hosted a series of events entitled, “Embrace Your Wellness Community Fair,” for the elderly as a way of promoting senior wellness. This was where seniors were given tips on how to enhance their quality of life, focusing on subjects such as blood pressure monitoring, flu shots, etc. According to Amy Kloster, Assistant Director of the Interfaith Older Adult Programs, there are around “25 different community resources [which] have come in and are identifying what dimension of wellness they connect with in the community.” This incorporates the spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects of wellbeing.
Another aspect that was brought up in these sessions was how seniors can become more energy-efficient at home. A representative of Focus on Energy, Nancy Alberte was in attendance giving “cash back rewards on appliance recycling.” Every little bit helps
For those who did not attend this series in Milwaukee but want to get more education on enhancing the quality of life as a senior, Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman has some great tips.
It seems that while people of course do want to live longer lives, they don’t want those to be of such reduced quality using major advances in technology. They would prefer improved care, not higher technology. According to an associate professor of medicine at Buffalo University, Bruce J. Naughton (who is also a geriatrics specialist), “it turns out that more care and more technology doesn’t necessarily translate to the best care.”
When the Stats Don’t Add Up
The question is, why is it so bad for old people in particular to be cared for in a hospital environment? Isn’t it bad for everyone? In general, yes. But statistics from a study at the university’s Geriatric Center of Excellence has shown that the elderly (those individuals over 80) who are hospitalized for more than four consecutive days have up to a “75 percent chance of dying in the hospital.” What has been happening is that patients who are being treated for multiple illnesses through advanced technological methods are ending up with poor care. This is not what physicians are trained to do, Naughton notes.
Thus Naughton makes the following recommendations for patient carers to deal with this problem. First, one should discuss with the patient’s doctor his or her life expectancy along with life quality. Next, find out if there are alternative methods available instead of surgery, or, what would happen if nothing was done. Try and get more than one opinion from a variety of experts. Set up a meeting with all the specialists involved in the case. It seems, as Naughton has pointed out, “the role of the geriatrician is to discuss what the medical technology involves and what are the outcomes.” If, for example, surgery may prolong the patient’s life but at a reduced quality, it might be decided to not go the surgery route.
Ultimately, it is imperative to not rely too heavily on technology and to thus keep the human element firmly in the picture. This is because making the patient less a priority and technological methods more, has proven ineffective with regards to geriatric health care.
In a bid to improve the services it offers, the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) just received a staggering $2.6m from the Behavioral Supports Ontario (BSO) project – a partnership among the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, Health Quality Ontario and LHINs. If any organization needs extra resources and support, it is this one, given that this is the organization dealing with behavior and mental problems, including neurological issues and dementia. The money will be used to bring in additional nursing staff, support workers and other health-care providers who can assist these elderly patients.
According to the CEO of North East LHIN, Louise Paquette, it is behavioral support which has been the “missing link in the health-care system.” To ensure the money is spent as efficiently as possible, already discussions have begun amongst hospital officials, the North East LHIN, long-term care residences and other services currently available for the elderly community. However, it will take until around February 2012 before initiatives will be implemented in the area (which comprises North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Timmins). In addition, North East LHIN will be having talks with the head of North East Specialized Geriatric Services, Dr. Jo-Anne Clark, again to ensure the money is spent in the best possible way to benefit the elderly and make life easier for the staff.