February 3, 2011 | Suzanne Shaffer | Leave a comment When someone mentions geriatrics or elder care, it usually brings to mind caring for the sick, the aging and often those close to dying. In that stage of life, we frequently think of it as babysitting the sick and dying. It brings to mind the picture of nursing homes, those who have lost their mental capabilities, and those whose physical bodies have worn out. But is that truly the nature of this field within the health profession? Is it just about treating their diseases and waiting for them to die? Those who are pioneering this type of medicine disagree emphatically. They believe it’s about improving the lives of parents, grandparents and their families. The future of Geriatric Healthcare Dr. Chad Boult of Johns Hopkins University, in an informational video, discussed the future of geriatric healthcare. “Doctors and nurses aren’t trained in geriatric care. There is a crisis looming and it’s going to reach a tipping point. By 2025 the baby boomer population will be retiring and the need will skyrocket. We are not prepared for it as a society or in the healthcare system.” Kathleen Trevor Grieves, R.N. of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health put it simply by saying, “We serve the roll of being an educator, being a mentor, being a friend, being a coach and being a motivator. Once there are enough of us, the nurses who have done this kind of work, to tell other nurses what it’s like and how fulfilling it is, people are going to be clamoring to get into this field.” Dr. Carl Hammerschlag of HealingDoc.com, shared his insights in a five-minute interview on how physicians and other health care providers can engage and assist patients and their families in the practice of geriatric medicine. “We need to build relationships with our patients. This involves honest exchanges of heart and soul. All people need that, but we especially need that as we age. If you are a geriatrician (or geriatric care provider) taking care of that elder and his or her children, you too need to fully be there. Not just with your head, but with your whole heart as well.” Why choose Geriatric Healthcare? The world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. It is estimated that one in every five American’s will be over 65 years of age by 2030. This raises the need for trained healthcare professionals to take care of the elderly. An old patient not only faces complex medical issues, but his care raises many complex social and ethical questions as well. This makes the work very challenging and exciting, while giving you the unique opportunity to care for the entire individual; not just in a physical sense, but in a mental and emotional sense as well. Dr. Carl Hammerschlag summed up in his short interview with what those pursuing a career in the geriatric health field should welcome and embrace: It’s the story. Everything begins and ends with the patient’s story. Geriatric healthcare providers are blessed. They care for a population who welcomes them now and will welcome them into their ranks in the future. Their work is holy work. They are the last bastion of medicine that is making soulful connections to patients. Practice radical self-acceptance as humans, and as healthcare providers. Remember, “Where I am is where I am supposed to be.” Bring that mindset to patient-care encounters and you will have done your patients a great service. We cannot alter completely the biological decree to age, but we can walk the path with our patients, talking to them, and teaching them. Be that healer who connects with the soul of a patient–so that even the Alzheimer’s patient, who may be only able to smile and blankly respond, or the stroke patient, who feels locked inside their body–will know that they aren’t alone. We forget that the elderly do not lack intelligence or feelings. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not just because they are people, but because their years and the merit of their lives require it. They each have a story to tell and deserve a chance to live their final years as comfortably as possible, remembering that they still have something worthwhile to contribute and often say, if we just take the time to listen. Few lines of employment are as rewarding as being in the position of assisting in the everyday lives and being a part of the time in elderly lives where their primary focus is that of dignity and peace of mind. And sharing such an all-important stage in their lives is the most important factor– much more than the work of the job itself. If this type of caring, loving and fulfilling career interests you, you can find out more about the types of career options available by clicking here, or doing a search on this site for schools offering online health and nursing degrees. You can also go to College Navigator and do a search for colleges offering degrees in geriatric healthcare.