Geriatrics Physician Dr. Cheryl Woodson Says Families Must Prepare to Give Care and Pressure Elected Officials to Do More for Aging Populations.
In the days since the Democratic and Republican National Conventions ended, enthusiastic delegates have returned home to push their candidates' agendas and the candidates themselves are campaigning vigorously. Yet with all the rhetoric doled out during both gatherings, one Chicago-area physician and caregiver advocate says there was too little said about one of the nation's top issues: healthcare--especially as it relates to caring for people ages 65 and over.
"The silence on these issues was deafening," says Dr. Cheryl Woodson, a practicing geriatrician, caregiver expert and author. "Here we are in the midst of a health care crisis and none of the candidates spoke in detail about how this nation will ensure quality care for older generations," she added.
By the year 2030 more than 57 million people will be between the ages of 66 and 84--that's about 25% of the population. Additionally, reports show that more Baby Boomers are under-insured and worried that they may not be able to afford long-term, rising health care costs.
"These factors, coupled with the fact that people are living longer and are more prone to develop chronic and degenerative health problems confirm that we are facing an onslaught of mature patients, otherwise known as a 'silver tsunami.' There will not be enough advocates to help seniors secure their futures, not enough capable caregivers and not enough of a commitment on behalf of the government to ensure that seniors receive the kind of care they deserve," Woodson states.
"I've seen far too many families stuck with medical bills they cannot pay, because they misunderstood their health insurance coverage. Many have even lost their homes," Woodson recalls, which is why she regularly facilitates workshops at her south suburban Chicago adult healthcare center. Topics include everything from navigating the Medicare Maze to dealing with Dementia.
So what can families do? In addition to demanding that elected officials bring this issue to the forefront, Dr. Woodson says people must first realize that many of them will become the primary caregivers for aging relatives. "That means you can't put your head in the sand if you notice something different about mom or dad," Woodson states. As a geriatrician, she advises families to get geriatrics assessments for their loved ones the moment they notice forgetfulness, personality changes, or other unusual behavior.
Secondly, Dr. Woodson says individual caregivers must also avoid taking on the entire responsibility. "Take the 'S' off your chest, or step away from the Kryptonite! Don't try to be a 'Super Caregiver.' One person cannot do it alone."
Lastly, Woodson drives home the importance of caregivers caring for themselves. "You cannot give care, supervise care or advocate for another's care when you are physically ill, financially strapped or emotionally exhausted," she warns.
After having witnessed primary caregivers literally drop dead, leaving 80+ year-old loved ones behind with no one to look after them, Woodson strongly advises caregivers to exercise regularly, keep doctor's appointments, protect finances and prepare well for their own retirement. "By taking care of yourself you are taking care of your aging loved one."
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