Monday, March 28, 2011

Rally for Independence at Indiana Statehouse

AARP Indiana and the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging will host a Rally for Independence at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis tomorrow, March 29, 2011.

The rally is in response to proposed budget cuts in the funding for the CHOICE program, which provides home- and community-based services in Indiana.

According to the AARP Indiana website:

"Fully funding CHOICE services is a proven and common sense use of taxpayer dollars even in tough budget times. These home and community based services provide meals, in-home care, adult day care, personal care attendant services, transportation, and many other life-sustaining support services at a fraction of the cost of nursing home care."

Members of the General Assembly have been invited to meet and speak with the activists and supporters.

Boxed lunches will be served at 11:15am, with the rally beginning in the North Atrium at 12:00pm.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bullying -- not just a problem for kids anymore

Most of us are probably familiar with the recent focus on bullying in our schools. We see stories about grade school children been bullied, cyber-bullying happening on Facebook and Twitter, and violence in the schools. One place that we may have overlooked, according to some sources, may be nursing homes.

While there has been little research on elderly bullying published in recent history, anecdotal evidence and stories suggest that this type of harassment is on the rise. The harassment can range from more classic types of bullying behaviors, such as verbal intimidation, to dirty looks, and even physical violence. Senior males tend to be more direct with their bullying, opting for direct verbal harassment, while senior females tend more towards passive aggressive tactics, such as gossiping or spreading lies about other seniors.

A recent article, “Mean old girls: Seniors who bully” details several stories of elder bullying in nursing homes, retirement communities, and long-term care facilities. It seems quite sad that we now have to worry about our loved ones being bullied at almost every point in their lives. It is tough enough dealing with the repercussions of bullying in children, such as low self esteem, depression, isolation, and even suicide. But to add in the worries about how our aging loved ones may have to deal with similar issues, in addition to any health concerns, seems too much.

Gerontology expert Robin Bonifas estimates that nearly 20 percent of seniors in group living communities have experienced some type of senior-to-senior aggression or bullying. This bullying includes physical violence, which in some cases has led to death. Targets of bullying tend to be those individuals who have difficulty with specific tasks (eating, leisure activities, etc.) or who are new to a facility. Bonifas believes that one cause of this behavior may be fear: the fear of losing mental or physical functioning.

So how can we work to prevent this kind of bullying? One resource might be local community agencies, which may be able to provide assistance or training for the facility. Another way to prevent senior bullying is to encourage bystanders to act in positive ways when they observe it happening. The trick, however, is to intervene in positive ways, and to also be respectful of any possible physical or cognitive impairment.

Greg Mallis
CAC Graduate Assistant

In addition to his work as a graduate research assistant at the UIndy Center for Aging & Community, Greg is a doctoral candidate in the UIndy Department of Psychology.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Registration open for online aging courses

Registration for online graduate courses in Aging Studies for the summer term through the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is now open. Courses scheduled for the summer include:

  • Aging Individual within Society & Community
  • Economics & Aging
  • Spirituality & Aging
Students may take up to two courses as a "guest" without having to enroll in a degree or certificate program. Deadline to register is April 18. UIndy also offers online and traditional undergraduate courses in Aging Studies. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Integrated health records can improve quality, lower costs

This past week I was privileged to attend a couple of events in Indianapolis that are held annually and designed to provide education and networking opportunities for people working in the field of aging. One event was the 5th Annual Indiana Geriatrics Society (IGS) Spring Dinner. The other was the 22nd Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Aging sponsored by the St. Vincent Center for Healthy Aging that included a full day of 15-minute presentations by various professionals. Both events offered excellent information, quality exhibits and friendly volunteers who assisted participants.

The IGS Spring Dinner featured a guest speaker, Dr. Michael Malone. He works as Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, the Public Health Medical Director of Aurora Senior Services for Aurora Health Care’s 12 hospitals in Eastern Wisconsin, and the Medical Director for Aurora Visiting Nurse Association of Wisconsin.

Dr. Malone developed the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) Program and presented on the topic “Using the Electronic Health Record to Improve the Care of Vulnerable Elders.” He was compelled to work with his staff to develop the ACE Program about 10 years ago after caring for an elderly gentleman in the hospital who was overmedicated upon admission and slept for an entire week, thereby making it difficult to assess his needs and provide appropriate care.

The important take-away message from Dr. Malone’s was that there are simple, cost-effective methods using technology with health records that can be incorporated into health care settings to track patients’ conditions. This can be accomplished by incorporating a health information technology staff in the interdisciplinary care team. The tracking methods can be conducted by personnel who are not geriatricians, thus saving the physicians’ time for the more critical aspects of patient care. Since our country is already short of needed geriatricians and the shortage will deepen exponentially with the aging of the baby boomer generation, this is a matter of utmost importance and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Additionally, the patients in the ACE Program have been shown to benefit from reduced incidences of health care-acquired infections, medication overdose, and other easily preventable mishaps that are far too common with traditional means of health care and records management.

At a time when our federal and state governments are looking for ways to save money on health care costs while expanding coverage, the integrated system of tracking seems like a logical choice for moving those goals forward.

Tamara Wolske, MS
Academic Program Director

Monday, March 7, 2011

They should have known better, UPDATE

Thank you for your comments on the post I wrote last week titled "They should have known better." I spoke to the office manager of the practice this morning and wanted to give you an update.

The office manager heard my concerns and let me know that when Virginia was dropped off by her driver, he asked her where she wanted to sit and she said "Right here is fine." Right here just happened to be in the middle of the room.

After her appointment (which I was not there for), the office staff did wheel her to a place in the waiting room that was more appropriate and offered her a magazine and a glass of water while she waited for the driver to return.

The office manager assured me that she would speak to the nursing staff about looking around for the person whose name they are calling to be certain that the person heard them and that they don't need any assistance.

So a quiet ending to my outrage. The good news is that the office appeared to be mostly attentive to this older patients needs and wishes. I can only hope that my calling about what I saw and posting about it here makes people stop and think about treating others how they would wish to be treated.

Amy Magan
Communications Manager

Thursday, March 3, 2011

They should have known better

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning. When I arrived at the office, there was an older woman in a wheelchair sitting in the reception area in a not very convenient spot. She wasn't close enough to the registration window to really talk to them. She wasn't seated along the row of chairs where others were waiting. She was close enough to the entrance that I almost walked into her when I opened the door to the office.

As I stepped up to the registration window to sign in, I asked her if she'd signed in yet. "No," she said. I offered to sign in for her or to give her the clipboard so she could sign herself in. She declined, saying that "they" had told her they knew she was there and they would just call her when they were ready for her.

After I signed my own name, I took my seat and waited. Another woman seated a few chairs down from me was called in, leaving me, the lady in the wheelchair, and three drug reps in the waiting room. A few minutes later, the door to the back office opened, the nurse called "Virginia" and just stood there. When no one immediately moved toward the door, she called "Virginia" again.

I saw the woman in the wheelchair trying to fumble with the brakes that were pushed tight against the tires. Not wanting to assume she wasn't independent, I waited a moment, then got up and asked if she needed some help.

Relieved, she said, "yes, that would be great." I pushed her in the chair across the small waiting room and to the care of the nurse who had been calling her name.

Several thoughts struck me about the situation.

  1. Whomever brought the woman to the office should not have just left her in the middle of the room.
  2. Even if #1 did happen, the receptionist should have come out from behind the desk to move the woman to a more comfortable spot. Who wants to be stuck in the middle of an open space like some piece of furniture?
  3. The waiting room is not equipped for wheelchairs. The office is pretty small, but there are enough chairs that 2 or 3 of them could be removed to make room for wheelchairs.
  4. The nurse who called Virginia back should have known that she was in a wheelchair and might need some assistance. If Virginia was a new patient, the receptionist who told her they'd call her back in a minute should have let the nurse know that the patient was in a wheelchair.
  5. Even if #4 didn't happen, the nurse could have stepped out into the waiting room to try to see whom she was calling. If she'd hadn't just stood there hollering the name, she would have quickly been able to determine the patient needed some help.
  6. The drug reps made no efforts to move or to help.
Maybe I'm more sensitive to these things because I work in the aging industry. Maybe the office staff and the drug reps are less sensitive because they encounter older and disabled people frequently. Maybe none of this even bothered Virginia.

But it did bother me, so much that I'm still thinking about it 24 hours later. So much that I think I'm going to call the office manager this afternoon.

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Amy Magan
Communications Manager