Age-Friendly Health Care: What is it and Why is it Important?
Older adults have unique healthcare needs. The majority of older adults has more than one chronic disease and takes multiple medications. Diminished eyesight and hearing, loss of balance and impaired memory are common. Many individuals in this population go from being able to live independently to relying on others, which can be a challenging transition. With the number of older Americans growing rapidly and by unprecedented numbers, the need for viable geriatric care solutions has never been more urgent.
How can we provide better care for patients of all ages? There are currently here are more than 46 million Americans age 65 and over, and that number is projected to more than double to over 98 million by 2060. As massive numbers of baby boomers grow older and live longer, more and more people will require advanced healthcare needs, and our current system is ill-equipped to handle this influx. Many believe that age-friendly health systems are the solution. An initiative of The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), the Age-friendly Health Care System takes a proactive and holistic approach to the impending demographic shift. The goal of the initiative is to improve the health of people at every life stage and in communities across the country.
Age-friendly isn’t exclusive to the care of older adults. Every age demographic has its distinct health needs. The care of infants can be as demanding of attention as those of teenagers, young adults and those in middle age. That’s why the concept of age-friendly health care focuses on meeting the needs of everyone. “When we think about aging, we think about longevity and care across the lifespan,” says Alice Bonner, senior adviser for aging at the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a nonprofit working to improve health care globally. “Age friendly is about older adults, but it’s also really about families and communities. Age friendly means a health system that is supportive and leads to good health outcomes for people at any age—not just older adults.”
How do age-friendly health systems achieve their goals? By focusing on what geriatrics specialists call the “5Ms”, this multi-faceted approach supports improved health care solutions. These 5Ms include:
1. Understanding what matters to older adults when it comes to making healthcare decisions: This means looking at the goals of care; coordinating advance care planning; and making sure the priorities and preferences that are the most important to each individual become part of the treatment plan.
2. Reviewing, reducing, and removing medications that may cause harm or are unnecessary: The ways our bodies change as we age can increase the chances for side effects from medications, especially for those consuming multiple prescriptions and numerous over-the-counter drugs. Focusing on medications means raising awareness about their potential side effects while also working to reduce the number of medications required whenever possible.
3. Improving care for the mind: Staying mentally sharp and managing mental health can help people live longer, healthier lives. That’s why expert attention to the mind is such a crucial part of overall well-being. Focusing on the mind means supporting brain health and managing conditions like dementia, delirium, anxiety, and depression, which can affect the ability to think clearly and make good decisions.
4. Promoting mobility: Mobility is the term for being able to move freely independently or with assistance. It’s linked to staying physically fit and being able to live self-sufficiently for as long as possible, making it among the most important factors for supporting geriatric health, safety, and independence. Focusing on mobility means maintaining the ability to walk or stay balanced while also avoiding falls and other types of common injuries.
5. Attention to multi-complexity: Many older adults live with multiple health concerns. In fact, more than half of Americans 65 years old and above live with three or more health conditions. Focusing on multiple health concerns helps people to better manage a variety of conditions while also looking at how lifestyle might be impacted by age, health conditions, and social situations.
Age-friendly goes beyond health care. Age-friendly housing, access to food, transportation and socialization are all needed to improve the health of the overall population. Being age-friendly also means being in solidarity with older people. It recognizes that we are all on the aging journey. Thus, it’s not a matter of "us" attending to "them," but rather realizing we are united, with the same interests and goals.
At Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, we always strive to provide the highest level of support and personal attention to you, your family, and our community. If you would like to learn more about age-friendly health care, or if we can be of service in any way, please contact us.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.