Category Archives: health care

Raleigh’s New Senior Center Has New Meaning

When I was elected to the Raleigh City Council three years ago, the first issue I worked on as part of the Public Works Committee was funding and approval of a new Senior City, which was approved by passage of a bond referendum.

There was infighting. One group, SAG, which worked diligently for the center and the bond, believed the funding should be used for their center. Another group of seniors in North Raleigh, who got thrown out of their space all the time because of programming conflicts, had other ideas. They wanted the center to be located near them.

We reached a compromise. I was in the thick of it, negotiating, listening, cajoling. It was great to be able to come up with a solution that made everyone happy: two centers, the larger one at Whitaker Mill and a second at Millbrook Exchange Park. Because of this connection, the centers have always had a special place in my heart.

Today we broke ground on the Whitaker Mill Center and it has a whole new meaning for me. Now when I look in the face of people like Jean and Jilma and others, I have a whole new appreciation of what this center represents to them … Physical activity. Mental agility. Social connections. Cards and games. Comfort. Friendships. A meal. A hug. A helping hand. A smile. A laugh. A sense of accomplishment for making it happen. A legacy. A place to call their own. All the little things that make it a big thing.

I never would have known this in an intimate way if my mom hadn’t come to live with me. I take my mom twice a week to Independence Health, where she enjoys all of the above amenities. And I’ve come to understand what going there means to her.

As we pushed the shovel into the ground and flung the dirt, symbolizing the start of construction of this new building, I had a lump in my throat. I knew that many seniors would come to enjoy this new facility in ways I had never understood before. I thought, “Maybe my mom will get to go here.” Now I never imagined thinking that three years ago.

These senior centers, AKA “active lifestyle facilities,” are a joint project of the City of Raleigh and Wake County. You can check out the designs by clicking here



Mom Meddles With Meds

What would make someone modify their medication despite doctor’s orders? Mom seems to be a master at this.

I’m sure other seniors (and their caretakers) are going through this. My mom’s high blood pressure pills are no longer being manufactured so her doctor prescribed another medication plus a separate diuretic.  So Mom takes the diuretic, is up several times during the night to go to the bathroom, and decides the medicine is too much.

I call the doctor’s office, we set up an appointment, and he instructs her to take the diuretic for the remainder of the week until we come to see him. She tells me she’s not going to take it. I insist, reminding her that the last time she didn’t take a diuretic, her ankles blew up like sausages and her blood pressure shot up to scary levels.

“Oh yeah, I remember that. I don’t want that to happen again,” she tells me. I believe we have agreement. What she doesn’t tell me is that she decides on her own to cut the CAPSULE in half and take what she wants. Of course, I learn this in the doctor’s office when she tells the nurse what she’s been doing. (Said nurse gave her “the look,” if you know what I mean.)

Wow. Bad for two reasons. You can’t control your medication levels by cutting a capsule in half. And capsules work in certain ways … you change the way the medication enters your body and therefore the way it is meant to perform. The doctor explains this patiently but firmly. He asks her to try the medication he’s prescribed for at least six weeks. She agrees. Three days later, the new diuretic is working perfectly.

I now find I’m watching my mom’s medicine intake. I don’t like to have to do this, but I don’t feel like I can trust her to take the pills she’s supposed to take. Years ago, she decided she didn’t need to take B 12 anymore. That didn’t work out so well. It almost killed her and it contributed to her memory loss. She decided years ago to cut her thyroid pill in half and take part of it during the day and the other half during the evening. That didn’t work out so well, either. She gained 20 pounds. Finally, the doctor discovered what she was doing and that got straightened out.

Recently, when she threatened to quit the high blood pressure pill, I said, “OK, mom. But then you suffer the consequences. Your blood pressure will skyrocket and you’ll end up in the hospital.” (Hey, scare tactics were known to work on me when I was a kid.)

I’m writing this blog because I’m at a loss. If you have a suggestion on making mom take her meds, let me hear it!

Living Longer Costs More

There was an excellent article in Sunday’s New York Times called “The Financial Time Bomb of Longer Lives.”  Having mom live with me has made me much more aware — and concerned — about the public policy implications of our growing senior population.

As the article by Natasha Singer points out, we’re living longer, healthier lives than ever before. That’s the good news. The bad news is we have an unsustainable system in place that pays for entitlement programs such as government-sponsored pension plans, health care, and long-term care. And the article gives a perfect example of this contradiction: As people age, a growing number live with dementia, “whose treatment is expected to cost $604 billion worldwide this year.” Ouch.

The article talks about what needs to be done from a global perspective. The first thing that needs to change is cultural … we need to value seniors instead of viewing them as a drain. Governments need to look at job training and re-education programs for seniors, with possible bonuses to seniors who work until they are 70. Corporations and businesses need to consider flexible work hours and telecommuting. And all of us need to consider that living longer requires us to make some personal sacrifices, such as paying a larger share of our health care bills, saving more money, and rewarding (instead of punishing) elected officials who work toward reform for the greater good.

All we need to do is look at Greece, Ireland, Spain and France, countries that are all grappling with aging populations.

We all love our families and want the best for them. But the time has come for all of us to realize that the future is going to look different due to changing demographics. And the time to deal with it is now, not later.

Health Care Costs are Killing Us

Since Mom’s moved in, I’ve helped her find new doctors and pharmacists, get her prescriptions filled, and search for answers to her medical questions. Health care is her biggest concern. Yet there’s one thing she doesn’t have to worry about … her health care benefits are paid for by Medicare.

There’s a new study out that issues a warning. It says that senior healthcare bills and social security benefits have sapped the U.S. national savings, creating an unhealthy and unsustainable economic future.

No kidding. The question is: what are we going to do about it?

With more aging baby boomers, Medicare costs are going to continue to skyrocket. At the same time, you’ve got a political movement afoot that wants less government and taxes, but wants President Obama to “keep his hands off my Medicare.” (I saw this sign during the president’s visit to Raleigh to discuss health care. Kind of ironic).

So what do we do about it? Senior citizens vote. I urge you to ask candidates for Senate and Congress how they are going to balance these issues. For instance: If you want to extend tax cuts, how are you going to bring in more revenue? Or will you curb entitlement programs? Which ones and how much?

It’s obvious that we can’t continue to have it both ways. And if we don’t start taking this issue seriously, come 2029 there simply won’t be any money to fund Medicare. I’ll be 73.

Is the Doctor In?

I think there’s a real opportunity for innovation in the field of health care, particularly for senior citizens.

Since my mom is 87, she has plenty of health-related issues. Some are worth taking her to the doctor. But not every issue warrants a visit. To me, it would make sense if I could send an email to her doctor, ask a question, and get advice or a response. It seems, however, that physicians have not been quick to embrace technology as a way to better serve their patients. And I wonder why not.

It’s only been recently that I’ve seen my primary care physician with a personalized tablet that has all my medical history on it. But for the most part, my doctors still use folders and paper. That can’t be easier to track.

In moving my mom here, we asked for her medical records to be sent by her primary care physician and the specialists she had been seeing. Guess what? They were faxed … Hundreds of pages of paper. Isn’t there a way to transfer them electronically?

It’s about time doctors and hospitals and insurers start thinking about better ways to bring medical care to the public. In fact, it could very well save time, money and resources.