New Reports Focus on Better, Person-Centered Care for Older Adults

Whether it is called “age-friendly health care” or “person-centered care for older adults,” this month has seen reports and publications focus and advocate for better health care that truly meets the needs of older people.

With support from the SCAN Foundation, the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation and the LeadingAge Center at UMass Boston released one report, “Tracking Progress on Person-Centered Care for Older Adults: How are We Doing?”

The report focuses on whether health care systems take into account the care preferences of older adults and compares how those preferences are honored among diverse older adults and those of varied income levels. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) – a nationally representative panel study of adults age 50 and over – the report found some of the following results:

  • Nearly one in four Hispanics (22.7%) report never having their preferences taken into account compared to roughly one in ten Non-Hispanic whites (8%) and one in six Non-Hispanic Blacks (16.3%).
  • Lower levels of household income and wealth are associated with a higher chance that the health care system does not take into account one’s preferences for care.
  • Higher proportions of individuals reported that the system only sometimes or never meets their needs were receiving Medicaid compared to those reported that needs are at least usually met.
  • The opposite trend is found for Medicare, with higher proportions of those who reported the system “always” taking their preferences into account receiving Medicare, compared to those who experienced the system as never addressing their preferences.

Similarly, the John A. Hartford Foundation and Trust for America’s Health led a group in publishing a paper in Health Affairs advocating for Age-Friendly Health Systems. The recommendations to achieve better care focus on the following:

  • Creating an adequately trained workforce
  • Strengthening the role of public health
  • Remediating disparities and inequeties
  • Developing new approaches to care delivery
  • Allocating Resources to Palliative and End of Life Care
  • Redesigning long-term service and supports

Regarding these six themes, the authors end by stating, “The current fragmentation of care, disregard for prevention, and disparate approaches to care can be resolved. It will take a willingness to work across traditional silos, a commitment to prolonging optimal health and independence, the restructuring of financing, and unwavering support for person-centered care. The changes will not come easily. But the burgeoning demographics and the critical needs of the older adult population make the challenge urgent and compelling.”