1 in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 currently have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. As baby boomers age, the needs of elderly patients, especially those with dementia, pose new challenges to the medical community.
I recently read an insightful article, The Silent Treatment, in the March 2011 edition of Toronto Life by Dr. Brian Goldman. Dr. Goldman is an emergency room doctor in Toronto. In the article, Dr. Goldman describes how his mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s changed his view of patients with dementia. As a young doctor and before his mother’s diagnosis, he viewed patients with dementia as “bad patients” in his emergency room with complex medical histories, bags full of pills, and unable to provide information in a quick manner. Now because of his experience with his own family, he has a highly empathetic view of the needs of his elderly patients with dementia.
Dr. Goldman also hosts a radio show on CBC Radio One, in which he discusses a number of subjects related to healthcare and Canadians, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He recently spoke with a social scientist who designs spaces, such as nursing homes, to meet the needs of people with dementia. Traditional nursing homes are usually difficult to navigate for people with memory problems and the frustration of becoming lost leads to further confusion and discouragement. Spaces designed to allow for multiple visual clues as to location and that are easier to navigate, lead to a calmer and happier atmosphere.
In the United States, some hospitals are now opening emergency rooms specifically designed for seniors. Proponents of the new separate emergency rooms believe that the current emergency rooms are not designed to address the needs of older patients, including the exploration of multiple ailments, diagnosis of underlying conditions, automatic medication checks, community outreach resources, and checking for cognitive problems.
These are just a few ways that the healthcare community is trying to address the growing needs of an aging population.
Thanks for reading,