Are you ready for the "Silver Stampede?" That's the question contributing editor Geri Aston asked hospital leaders in her December Hospitals & Health Networks article on the onslaught of older patients, which will have — indeed, already is having — an enormous impact on our health care system. Like most of the stories we run in H&HN, the focus of Geri's article was on real-world solutions — positive, practical ways health care organizations are confronting a difficult issue, in this case senior care, so that other hospital leaders can decide whether those strategies might be worth adapting in their own organizations.
I write frequently in this space about generational issues in health care, and after Geri's article ran, I heard from a number of readers wanting to let me know that they and their colleagues also are taking creative steps to confront this issue. Here are four you might find interesting and useful:
- A few years ago, Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md., initiated what it described as the nation's first emergency department specifically designed for older patients. Holy Cross leaders said their Seniors Emergency Center was "scientifically designed to reduce anxiety, confusion and the risk of falling," with special lighting, soft colors and noise abatement features. It features hand rails and flooring that reflects light in a way that makes missteps less likely. Trinity Health System, Holy Cross' parent, plans to open senior EDs in 19 of its other hospitals by 2013, and geriatric EDs are now operating in other hospitals in several states.
- Many older adults in need have limited daily contact with the outside world, so finding and helping them can be a big challenge. St. Cloud (Minn.) Hospital, part of CentraCare Health System, offers Senior Helping Hand for older people with chemical or mental health problems, problems that "often go unnoticed because of isolation and loneliness. As a result, the older adult continues to suffer in silence." The program offers outreach and consultation, evaluation and assessment, volunteer support and peer counselors, and referrals to recovery services. It also offers workshops for the general public, caregivers, social services staff, hospital staff, clergy and community members on chemical dependency, mental health and aging concerns.
- In October, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center announced that it will invest nearly $300 million to create the Center for Innovative Science. When completed in 2014, UPMC said the center "will focus on personalized medicine and the biology of cancer and aging, with the goal of developing new understandings of disease to improve patient outcomes while reducing over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatments."
- The nation faces a critical shortage of health care staff trained in the special needs of older patients, so it was encouraging to learn that the University of Texas in Arlington in December received a $1 million endowment to establish the Moritz Chair of Geriatric Nursing Research. University leaders said the endowment will help it develop a comprehensive geriatric research agenda. "Faculty and students are particularly interested in advances that can improve the efficacy of caregivers, improve the quality of life of the aging population and enhance opportunity for independent living among the elderly," says Elizabeth C. Poster, dean of the College of Nursing.
I would also like to draw attention to the NICHE conference taking place March 7-9 in New Orleans. I wrote about NICHE — Nurses Improving Care for HealthSystem Elders — in this space last year, and I doubt there's a more effective group collecting and disseminating best practices in senior care. Check out http://www.nicheprogram.org/.