Is there a doctor in the house? What if the answer is no?
The U.S. has been facing a physician shortage, but why? It comes down to basic supply and demand. We can understand the demand side to the equation because more physicians are needed by the aging population that is growing at an astounding rate of 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 on a daily basis. But what about the supply side of the equation?
Now known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) started in this country in 1946 in order to investigate malaria in the southern states of America. The agency’s first mission was to prevent the spreading of malaria throughout America. Today, the CDC is a critical agency under the onus of the Department of Health and Human Serves and focuses on five strategic areas:
Less is more. This is typically true with prescription medication. Although some medications are lifesaving, many people in this country are overmedicated, especially older adults. The term is called polypharmacy. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, 65-69 year olds take an average of 14 prescription drugs per year, and by the age range of 80-84 that average increases to 18 prescription drugs per year. The cost of overmedication with the elderly population is estimated at $80 billon annually (http://www.healthwatchersnews.com/2010/10/when-seniors-are-over-medicated/).
We talk about the impact of mental and physical distress on our health, but what about spiritual distress? It is often a difficult topic to approach. First of all, it is not easy to define, and secondly, many people feel awkward about discussing it. Our spiritual well being is not the same as our emotional well being.
Years back, I had a client who advised me: “ As you get older, be deliberate with your movements.” As I type this with my sling on after a fall, I realize now that she meant “at all times (especially when hiking).” We have 2.8 million annual emergency room visits in America as a result of falls, according to the National Council on Aging.
This column is a continuation of last month’s post on American healthcare issues. If you missed it, see the previous post in my Blog.
Last month we discussed five topics, which I described as the “big-picture items.”
In last month’s column I talked about healthy families. That topic led me to thinking about the “health of our nation.” What health issues are you concerned about? Although there are specific public health issues such as chronic diseases, infections, and obesity, I would like to discuss the big-picture items (which indirectly impact our health) such as our doctor shortages, the cost of healthcare, aging, and hospital errors.
We need more healthy families. It begins with good parenting; I dare say, parenting is the most important job on the planet. Developing strong family units creates a healthier society of better citizens. It takes hard work and discipline to raise healthy families, and it also takes time and sacrifice.
Have you sat at the bedside of your loved ones in a hospital or nursing facility feeling helpless and frustrated? How many of us have heard our loved ones say the following? “I press the call light and wait forever. I am in pain…..I lost my dentures…. I cannot find my robe….. My rosary beads are gone…. The alarm goes off every time I try to get out of bed on my own…” If you don’t want this for your future, now may be the time to think about preserving your good health.
Do your family and loved ones a favor and get your important papers together and accessible for them. None of us plans to get sick or end up hospitalized, but it happens. Planning for medical care in advance eases the many burdens when there is a medical emergency. Where do you begin?
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