April 17, 2024

Rethinking care for the elderly

Two academics at Emory University have proposed a novel solution to providing healthcare for the elderly.

In a recent article in The Conversation, Two academics at Emory University in Georgia have proposed a novel solution to problem of providing healthcare for the burgeoning elderly population in Western nations.

Rather than merely advocating an increase in the number of geriatricians, Dr. Jonathan Flacker and Rebecca Dillard argue for “new models of care” that focus on “better coordination of care for older adults”.


“If we want care for older adults that is more than just “good enough,” we need more boots on the ground to provide that care. We don’t just need more geriatricians. We need more pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants trained in the special needs of the older patient.”


As an example the authors discuss Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) units – teams of nurses and nurse practitioners, physicians, social workers and other health-care professionals. They use coordinated care principles to ensure better patient outcomes with a relatively small investment of geriatrician time.

They also refer to the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) program, an initiative designed to help nurses stimulate culture change and make healthcare systems more senior friendly.

“In each case, the geriatrician’s expertise is amplified throughout health-care organizations through care systems, better use of resources, technology, financial incentives and teamwork.”

The authors acknowledge that there is also a need for new geriatricians. But too often is this put forward as the only solution:

“What older adults need in order to optimize function and quality of life transcends simply the medical issues and extends to policies and infrastructure of our health-care systems and communities.”

The sentiments of these academics are echo those of Atul Gawande in his new book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most in the End

Rethinking care for the elderly
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
ageing population