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(SACRAMENTO) — The good news: Americans are living longer. The most recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says U.S. life expectancy is 78.7 years, an increase of one month from former data.
The challenging news: The rapid increase in the older-adult population places unprecedented demands on our health care system and aging-related services. By 2030, the number of U.S. adults aged 65 or older will more than double to 71 million.
UC Davis Health will be ready, to help older adults achieve their health and wellness goals thanks to a new Aging Initiative. The vision is to create the healthiest and highest-functioning older adult population in Northern California due to the care, research and innovation at UC Davis Health.
A culture shift
“This is a culture shift and a movement that reshapes how UC Davis Health serves older adults and their family caregivers in an age-friendly way across the entire enterprise,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine and co-leader of the initiative. “Our goal is to deliver our care in order to optimize quality of life, function and autonomy across a person’s lifespan and across all care settings.”
UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky tapped Brashear and Stephen Cavanagh, dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, to lead the initiative. While this is a new approach, caring for older adults is not new to the health system. When asked, 150 faculty report that they have worked with older adults or are interested in doing so. The UC Davis Medical Center is nationally ranked for its inpatient geriatrics care outcomes. The Alzheimer’s Disease Center is internationally recognized for its cognitive research. The Family Caregiving Institute leads international discussions on research and workforce education to strengthen clinical skills and support family caregivers of older adults.
“We are in a unique situation as we are building this from scratch. We are building on a solid foundation of excellent work already taking place here and moving it forward from the older-adult perspective,” Cavanagh said. “By putting the older person and their family at the center of our programs, and building out from there, we will be sure that care is tailored to address what is most important to each person.”
New older-adult clinic
UC Davis Health Aging Initiative
World class care for older people at UC Davis Health
Promoting healthy aging through an integrated approach across the lifespan and all care settings by:
• Providing age-friendly care
• Supporting family caregivers
• Leveraging technology for independent living
• Teaching the next generation of care providers
In development is a new older-adult outpatient clinic in midtown Sacramento, uniquely designed to house geriatric physicians, advanced practice providers and all the services needed to support older adult patients and their caregivers. From geriatricians and geriatric nurse practitioners to pharmacists and physical therapists, all providers will reside in one location. There will also be direct-support services from the Family Caregiving Institute.
“The interdisciplinary nature of care for the aging clinic is essential,” Cavanagh said. “It's built upon one very important premise – that the care of the aging person and their caregivers requires a number of different approaches. Not just the medicine and treatment side, but also the way in which we manage patients and their caregivers, which involves education.”
Currently, more than 40 interdisciplinary leaders are analyzing clinical delivery, education and research facets of the effort. Initiative leaders are hiring a team of geriatrics-focused health care experts throughout the health system, including the departments of internal medicine, emergency psychiatry, neurology, orthopedic trauma and the School of Nursing.
Strength of our system
“In today's world, academic health systems need to work as a system. And one of the ways you do that is by providing seamless patient care,” Brashear added. “There’s nothing better in medicine than the team approach of nurses and physicians working together.”
Long-term goals include establishing a geriatrics fellowship program, weaving new geriatrics components into the School of Medicine curriculum, increasing education opportunities for medicine and School of Nursing students and earning the Age-Friendly Health System designation from The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
“This initiative will have waves and ripples, right through all aspects of the health care system,” Cavanagh said.
UC Davis Health is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. For more information, visit health.ucdavis.edu.