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As Southwest Ohio’s Geriatric Population Grows, Premier HealthNet Advises Families to  Identify Caregivers

Primary Care Physicians Offer the Best Resources for Family Caregivers

DAYTON, Ohio (July 30, 2012) – Falls, slips and illnesses can have a lasting impact on older Americans and can quickly put family members into the role of searching for long-term care. This means daughters and sons are asked to make quick decisions when their parents suffer from a healthcare emergency, thrusting them into the position of becoming a family caregiver and advocate.

According to a 2011 study from the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, Ohio’s population is facing a dramatic demographic shift.  Premier HealthNet is urging seniors and their families to think about who will make their medical decisions in the event of emergency or debilitation, and encourages them to turn to primary care doctors and their staff as resources for navigating the confusing and sometimes overwhelming situation of caring for an aging loved one.

“The primary care physician is the center of the wheel,” says Elaine Scott, a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) at Brookville Family Care in Brookville. “They are the medical expert that has the most experience with a patient, so primary care doctors and nurses are in the best position to advise family caregivers as they make decisions.”

As a CRNP at a practice that treats a significantly large number of older adults, Scott says Brookville Family Care has helped many adult daughters and sons navigate the sometimes confusing paths of being a family caregiver. In addition to all three of the practice’s physicians having significant experience treating older adults, Scott is herself a family caregiver to her 91-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia. The study, “Coming of Age: Tracking the Progress and Challenges of Delivering Long-Term Services and Supports in Ohio,” found that soon more Southwest Ohio adults will find themselves in a situation similar to Scott’s.

The study also found that Ohio’s population aged 60 and older was approximately 2 million strong in 2010, making it the seventh largest 60 and older population in the nation. By 2020, this population is expected to increase by 25 percent, while nearly doubling in size by 2040. This demographic shift means that today’s young and middle-aged adults will soon be expected to act as advocates and caregivers for their aging relatives.

Moving into this role can be difficult, Scott says. In addition to the increased responsibilities of escorting their older and often disabled parent to numerous doctors’ visits, family caregivers can also face both external pressure from siblings and relatives for the decisions they make and internal pressure to do everything.

“Family caregivers need to know what they’re comfortable doing, and older Americans thinking about this stage of their life need to consider who will make the best decisions on their behalf,” Scott says. “It’s a conversation that should happen before a life-altering event takes place.”

After years of both professional and personal experience, Scott says the most helpful advice for a new family caregiver is to keep lines of communication open, between themselves and the loved one they will care for; as well as maintaining communication with siblings and the patient’s primary care physician as medical decisions are made.

Premier HealthNet primary care physicians and CRNPs can help caregivers navigate this process. For example, Premier HealthNet’s electronic medical record system, Epic, allows caregivers to access their loved ones’ medical records at any time via the Internet using a service called MyChart. Meanwhile, Premier HealthNet physicians and nurses can provide caregivers with important information and resources to help them ensure that their loved ones receive the most comprehensive and complete care possible.

For more information on geriatric care giving and to find a Premier HealthNet primary care physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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