“The War on Chronic Disease”

The title of this post is stolen with pride from an article in Caring magazine, which is a good source, usually, on a number of topics concerning elder care, home care and senior health.

The article to which I am referring is an example of the good stuff.  It absolutely resonates with our experience, at Support For Home Health Care, and the experience of so many of our patients / clients.

Doctor Examining an Elderly Patient

After describing an 85-year old woman with COPD, kidney disease and high blood pressure who could be one of our patients / clients, the author (Lisa Yarkony, PhD), lays out the real problem that not just these folks face, but the health care system, itself:

  • More than 25% of Americans have two or more chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, …, requiring medical care and making independence very difficult
  • 2/3 of Americans over the age of 65 have multiple chronic conditions
  • 75% of folks over 80 have multiple chronic diseases
  • 69% of Medicare dollars are spent on people with 5 or more chronic diseases
  • By 2020, the number of Americans with multiple chronic conditions will reach 81 million, up 42% from the year 2000

With this set of data facing our current approach to health care, it is no surprise the Deputy Assistant Secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services says, “New care models are needed to provide coordinated care.”

Part of the reason we are facing this predicament is the aging of our population, caused not just by the baby boomer group but by medicine, itself.  We are living much longer than prior generations.  Along with that blessing comes more chronic disease – and our need to deal with it within the health care system.

Among the innovators in health care is Sutter Care at Home, in California, a group with which Support For Home Health Care proudly works in the greater Sacramento region.  One of the leaders of the Sutter program, which has trained about 4,000 clinicians in California on the issues of and approach to chronic care, is Paula Suter.  Ms. Suter is the Director of Integrated Care Management at Sutter Care at Home and has been selected to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Innovation Advisors Program.  One of the basic tenets of her recommended approach to chronic care management is less directive behavior by clinicians and more collaborative – with patients and with other caregivers.

Home health, as well as non-clinical home care, is one critical ingredient of a new, less costly and more effective model for chronic disease management.  It focuses not just on the clinical needs of the patient, but on behavioral changes and life support, as well.  As Dr. Yarkony concludes, in her article, “What’s the best way to answer the needs of this costly group with multiple chronic conditions?  For multiple reasons, home care [clinical and non-clinical] is the answer we need.”

We could not agree more.  Best wishes.  Bert


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