You and Me at 83…

Let’s say I’m eighty-three years old. I’m not that old—but let’s assume I am, just for the purposes of this blog. Let’s assume you’re in your eighties too.

Where would we like to live? It’s a relatively easy question for both of us, I suspect. We’d like to be comfortably situated in our own homes. I know I’d like to be independently observing my personal morning rituals and managing my own activities of daily living.

If either of us were in chronically ill or physically frail and had a need for constant medical attention, living independently might not be possible.

That’s what I used to think. An article in the “Atlantic” (www.theatlantic.com) and a new report in Kiplinger (April 2015) titled “6 Simple Things You Must Know About Aging in Place” altered my view.

Here’s the story. It’s about Ellen, who is an 82 year old widow living in Anaheim California. “One Wednesday morning last year she got on the scale, as she does every morning, and It read one hundred and forty-six pounds—wasn’t that a little high? Ellen felt vaguely troubled as she poured herself a bowl of oat bran.” As Ellen ate her cereal, the phone rang, and a friendly voice from the health clinic where Ellen was a patient expressed concern about Ellen’s weight—which “had jumped three pounds from the previous day.”

The friendly voice knew that because Ellen’s scale had transmitted the information through a wireless connection. Because Ellen had a history of congestive heart failure, a three-pound weight gain in a 24-hour period was a potentially dangerous situation. There was likely to be fluid build-up that would complicate her already-existing medical issues. She needed treatment immediately.

So now you may be thinking—that friendly voice (not a mechanized one by the way—a real person) probably told her to come into the clinic. Or maybe, the voice said “Call 911 and get to an emergency room.” Nope. The friendly voice said, ‘We’re sending a car to pick you up,” which they did. Ellen’s health provider gave her no-fee transportation from her home to the health clinic over the next few weeks, as well as appropriate medical treatment, until her health situation stabilized.

Had this not occurred, Ellen might have languished. Perhaps she would have eaten less because she was afraid she was gaining too much weight. She may have experienced a life-threatening cardiac event. She could have ended up in the hospital for days or weeks undergoing painful—and expensive—treatment.

The California-based clinic system that supported Ellen in this way is appropriately named CareMore (www.caremore.org) and it specializes in patient-centered approaches that also seem to avert huge medical costs. As their website says—“That’s what we do.”

This is impressive health care. According to the Atlantic article, CareMore has a hospitalization rate 24% below average and hospitals stays are 38% shorter. Overall costs are 18% lower than average. And the surveyed satisfaction rate is well above 90%. (And remember 80 year olds can be hard to please…)

When I’m in my eighties—that’s the kind of health care I want—coordinated, integrated, tuned into my personal needs and preferences. You too?

Whatever you may think about the Affordable Care Act President Obama signed into law in 2010, these are the kind of innovative approaches included in it. These ideas effectively combine common sense with technology— or as some system-watchers put it, “It’s about improving the quality of our country’s health care, but at a reduced cost.
It’s really about–you and me at eighty-three.

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