We face a tremendous challenge - and opportunity - ahead as the number of people age 65 and older increases threefold over the next 40 years. As we live longer, how can health care help ensure we live well?
We begin by recognizing that the traditional hospital-based medical system does not provide the multi-site, multi-disciplinary care that most elderly patients need. So at BIDMC, we are taking a non-traditional approach. We seek to place the elderly person at the center of care, with access to coordinated services through the medical center, post-acute care facilities, home care, and other community resources and long-term care providers.
Key to our program is the three-year-old ACOVE (acute care of vulnerable elders) unit and our inpatient and outpatient consultation services. The advantages of the ACOVE unit are evident. The unit is upbeat and pleasant. We encourage patients to wear street clothes, be as active as possible, and eat a variety of foods. Care is tailored to the unique requirements of the aging patient, taking into account the potential adverse effects of medications and how time in bed affects the body. On specialized geriatric units like ACOVE, length of stay is signif-icantly shorter for patients over age 70 than on general units, there are fewer falls and adverse drug react-ions, and nurses are more satisfied by their work.
We were at the cutting edge of the new specialty of geriatrics when the BIDMC gerontology division was estab-lished in 1976, and we continue to serve as an international leader in geriatric research and training.
Our program is made possible through unique affiliations with Harvard's Division on Aging, as well as relationships with the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged, the Urban Medical Group and our new integrated program with Milton Hospital. Together, we can achieve continuous, high quality health care from the acute hospital to the home that provides the compassion and respect we want for our own elderly family members and friends, and eventually ourselves.