COVID-19 shows need for combating ageism – Press Telegram

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization announced a global campaign to combat age discrimination. This is discrimination against older people who are widespread and harmful, but often unrecognized.

“We must change the story of age and aging” and “adopt a counter-strategy” Ageist attitudes and behaviors, WHO concluded in a major report accompanying the campaign ..

Several WHO-approved strategies are being attempted in the United States to educate people about age discrimination, promote intergenerational contact, and change policies and legislation to promote age equality. But given the shocking death toll of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes more than 500,000 older Americans, experts suggest that greater urgency is needed.

“COVID has been a headache with 2×4. You can’t repeat the same thing over and over and expect different results,” said Jess Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Council. increase. Aging was mentioned in an October webinar on age discrimination in health care sponsored by KHN and the John A. Hartford Foundation. “We need to address the root cause — and the root cause here is age discrimination.”

Some experts say there is an opportunity to address this concern because of what the country has experienced. Here are some examples of what is happening, especially in the medical setting.

Distinguish between old age and illness.

In October, a group of experts from the United States, Canada, India, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom called for the elimination of old age as one of the causes and symptoms of the disease in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases. A global resource used to standardize health data around the world.

Aging is a normal process, and equating aging with illness is “potentially harmful,” experts wrote in Lancet. They warned that doing so would result in inadequate clinical evaluation and care and could further downplay older people.

Identify ageist beliefs and languages.

A 2015 study by the FrameWorks Institute, an organization that studies social issues, found that many people associate aging with worsening, dependence, and decline. This is a stereotype that almost certainly contributed to policies that hurt older people during a pandemic. In contrast, experts understand that older people have very different abilities, and a significant number are healthy and independent and can contribute to society.

Using this and subsequent studies, the Reframing Aging Initiative, an effort to promote cultural change, has been working to change the way people think and speak about aging across the country.

Patricia Dantonio, Project Director and Vice President of Policy and Professional Services of the American Geriatrics Society, said:

This initiative promotes the equal treatment of older people.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Associate Press have adopted unbiased language about aging and have signed partners in the Colorado, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Texas communities.

Efforts to tackle ageism at the grassroots level.

In Colorado, the strategic awareness campaign “Changing the Narrative” has hosted more than 300 workshops over the past three years to educate the general public about the language, beliefs and practices of age discrimination. We are currently launching a campaign to raise awareness of age discrimination in health care, including a 15-minute video debuting in November.

In the face of the horrific consequences of the pandemic, the Maine Aging Council launched a Power in Aging project earlier this year to sponsor a series of community conversations on ageism and call on organizations to take an “anti-ageism pledge.” I launched it.

The goal is to educate people about their own “age bias” (mainly the assumptions about unconscious aging) so that they can understand “how age bias affects everything around them.”

Educational changes for healthcare professionals.

Two years ago, Harvard Medical School realized that future physicians were not well prepared to care for the elderly and began integrating geriatrics and palliative care education throughout the curriculum.

According to the latest data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, only 55% of US medical schools needed geriatric education in 2020, despite the surge in the elderly population.

Dr. Andrea Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, directs Harvard’s efforts and is a student on everything from places where older people receive care (nursing homes, life support, home programs, community-based settings) to general management methods. I teach to. Geriatric problems such as falls and delirium. Students will also learn how to talk to older patients about what is most important to them and what they most want from their care.

Schwartz also chaired a committee of geriatrics academic programs and recently announced the latest minimum geriatrics abilities that medical graduates should have.

Changes in professional requirements.

Dr. Sharon Inouye, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, proposes additional approaches that may advance better care for the elderly.

If your doctor seeks board certification in your area of ​​expertise, or if your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist renews your license, you will need to demonstrate your training or competence in the “Basics of Geriatrics”. And far more clinical trials should include a representative range of older people in order to build a better evidence base for their care.

Geriatrician Inoue is unable to recognize that elderly people with COVID-19 are in the emergency room of a hospital with “atypical” symptoms such as loss of appetite and delirium during a pandemic. Therefore, I was particularly scared. These “atypical” symptoms are common in older people, who instead of undergoing COVID-19 testing and treatment, were sent back to nursing homes and communities where they helped spread the infection. She said.

Incorporate geriatric expertise.

If the pandemic has a silver backing, it means that medical professionals and health system leaders have directly observed the problems that followed and realized that older people need special attention.

Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, a professor of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said:

More Sinai surgeons are now calling on geriatric healthcare professionals to help manage older surgical patients, and orthopedic specialists are discussing the establishment of a similar program.

Building an age-friendly medical system.

More than 2,500 healthcare systems, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers participate in the movement to develop age-friendly healthcare systems. This exercise sets four priorities (“4M”) in the care of the elderly. It is their mobility, their medications, their mental (cognitive and mental health) considerations, and what is most important to them: the foundation of human-centered care.

Creating a standardized framework for improving care for the elderly has helped healthcare providers and systems know how to proceed, despite the highly uncertainties of the last two years.

“I thought (the pandemic) would slow us down,” supports Terry Fulmar, chairman of the John A. Hartford Foundation. (John A. Hartford Foundation is a KHN funder.)

But most of the time, we were against what we found, “Fulmar added.

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