The American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging: Educational Resources for Your Patients

Authors: 

Mary H. Palmer, PhD, RNC, FAAN, and Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD

Dr. Palmer is Professor, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, and Member, AGS Public Education Committee; Dr. Busby-Whitehead is Professor, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and Chair, AGS Public Education Committee.

Citation: 

Pages 15 - 16

The trend toward self-care and patient-focused healthcare continues unabated. To have patients engaged in the management of their own care requires informed patients. The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Foundation for Health in Aging (FHA) is committed to initiatives in public education so that older adults can act as their own advocates for quality healthcare, and to increase the awareness of the larger public about health issues in the aging population.

Resources are available to older adults, their families, and their caregivers to help in increasing awareness and knowledge of disease prevention, health promotion, and healthcare management in older adults. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief review of the resources available on the FHA website, www.healthinaging.org, that may be of help to your older patients and their families to help promote health, prevent disease and disability, and improve quality of care and quality of life.

Aging in the Know
Public education materials are available free of charge from the FHA website. This website provides older adults with information on how to talk with healthcare providers about important issues such as the use of complementary and alternative medicines, polypharmacy, elder mistreatment, pain management, palliative care, and rehabilitation. It also includes information on the aging process, statistics on aging, and ethical, legal, financial, and insurance issues related to healthcare. These materials are reviewed and updated on a regular basis by experts in geriatric healthcare.

How We Age
Located at www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/topics_trial.asp?ch=3, the aging process is described on the genetic, cellular, and bodily levels in consumer-friendly language. The effects of the environment and healthy lifestyle choices are also discussed. Links to healthy lifestyle and prevention activities are available to provide more information, especially recommendations for the frequency of screening tests for breast, colon, and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, thyroid dysfunction, depression, and dementia.

Elder Health at Your Fingertips
Elder Health at Your Fingertips, located at www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/topics_trial.asp?id=3, consists of a series of articles written for the lay consumer. These articles are available for printing from the FHA website on health topics including diseases that cause major morbidity in older adults, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, eye diseases, hearing loss, influenza, cognitive and psychological diseases and conditions, and urogenital diseases and conditions. Information is also available on nutrition and sexual issues.

FHA Tip Sheets and Patient Education Forums
In addition to these topics, seasonal tip sheets called “FHA Tip Sheets” are released throughout the year on topics such as influenza and pneumonia prevention, winter safety, and travel safety. These sheets are also available for downloading at www.healthinaging.org/public_education/latest_tip_sheets.php.

Patient Education Forums are concise and authoritative fact sheets, written in Question & Answer format, designed to help patients communicate more effectively with their healthcare providers. Each Patient Education Forum focuses on an important topic in geriatric healthcare, including arthritis pain, anemia, and hearing loss, and provides answers to commonly asked questions. These are available for downloading at www.healthinaging.org/public_education/pef/.

In addition to being available online, both the FHA Tip Sheets and Patient Education Forums are featured regularly in Clinical Geriatrics.

Health in Aging Stories
This FHA website (www.healthinaging.org/caregiver/forProviders.asp) was launched in 2007 with the purpose of providing a place for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to post stories about their experiences in receiving or giving healthcare. This forum is meant to provide a venue for people to learn about the field of geriatrics, and how healthcare providers specializing in geriatrics can improve the quality of care and quality of life of older adults with complex chronic and acute health conditions.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Lay Language Articles
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is a premier journal that publishes state-of-the-science original research related to geriatrics. To make this information accessible to consumers of healthcare, select articles are translated into summaries written in lay language, and after review by the authors of the original articles, are posted on the Aging in the Know website. The location for this information is www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/research.asp. Some topics covered in this venue are depressive symptoms, vitamin D and risk of falls, tai chi and shingles, and the use of multivitamins and mineral supplements in nursing homes.

Eldercare at Home
In its second edition, this illustrated workbook was written by experts in geriatrics and discusses common challenges and issues faced by family care providers. The workbook is organized in 28 chapters, and the overall goal is to help family caregivers recognize and solve problems. Topics covered include depression, incontinence, constipation, sleep disorders, dental problems, and breathing disorders, The workbook also deals with issues of communication problems with healthcare providers, choosing a nursing home, advance care directives, and dying at home. Each chapter in the workbook follows the same outline: understanding the problem, when to get professional help, what the caregiver can do, potential obstacles in providing care, how to develop and carry out a care plan, and when to make adjustments to the care plan. The workbook gives clear examples of when to call for healthcare provider assistance and what type of information the family caregiver needs to collect and relay to the healthcare provider. The workbook can be downloaded without fee from the website www.healthinaging.org/public_education/eldercare/. The illustrations, however, will not be included. A slide kit available as Power Point slides of each chapter is also available and can be made into handouts for family and volunteer caregivers. More information about the purchase of this presentation kit is available from AGS or www.frycomm.com/ags/eldercare/order_form.asp?product=Presentation+Package.

Medicare Update
With the introduction of Medicare Part D, prescription medication coverage, older adults need to have up-to-date information about their choices on this program. Located at www.healthinaging.org/public_education/medicare_update.php, information on Medicare Drug Coverage with pertinent links to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gives an overview of the program and resources that can help with making coverage decisions.

Summary
Educated healthcare consumers expect to be engaged in healthcare decision making. The informed healthcare consumer wants to be involved in prevention of disease and enhancing quality of life and quality of care. Educational resources from the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging provide a rich array of easily accessible information to help older adults, their families, and their caregivers.

 

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