Finally, some encouraging news from our medical schools. In a story from Boston.com titled When old is new: A wave of change in medical schools puts emphasis on care of seniors, writer Alice Dembner follows the new, improved training of medical students in the art of treating our aging populace.
In the past, students who were not going into fields that focused on elders would spend very little time studying the aging of the human body and mind. Now, many students are spending significant time studying how the body ages. They are finding out that older patients need to be cared for differently than the young. Imagine! They are being taught about the whole life cycle, including how to handle that culturally taboo word - death.
These young students are not only spending time with aging organs. They are spending time with whole people who happen to be aging. They are learning to listen to the wants and needs of these elders. They are learning that each has a unique personality. They are learning that each loss suffered by an elder is tolerated differently, depending on the personality of the elder. But they are also seeing the results of too much loss of independence. They are learning that some people will die when that last bit of independence is lost.
These students are also learning to have difficult end-of-life talks with these elders. Providing good care while they are living includes finding out how far they want their doctors to take that care, when it comes to keeping them alive.
Geriatric care, in the past, has been glossed over for those going into other areas of medicine (meaning most doctors). Geriatricians would take care of the aged. That is no longer acceptable. Our country is short on geriatricians for reasons mentioned in one of my previous posts, Geriatrician Shortage: How Do We Make Geritarics More Atttractive? So, family doctors are seeing many of our elders. Internists are seeing many of our elders. Nearly every specialty other than pediatrics will be faced with decisions about how to treat their aging patients.
Doctors have been traditionally trained to cure. With elders, often the correct decision is to help them live comfortable with diseases that can't be cured. This takes a very different thought process. Congratulations to the medical schools that are facing this head on. It will mean better care for all of us, throughout life. It will mean geriatric care is being given the importance it deserves.
Published On: February 06, 2008