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Ann Marie Marciarille: Health Care in the Fiberhood

Kansas City is being wired for high speed internet, in a big way.  Indeed, my neighborhood is fast approaching its installation dates.

Lots of people have been wondering if high speed internet connectivity might improve access to health care in Kansas City, particularly for seniors and the homebound. Kansas City, you see, is a city with limited public transportation and a city with considerable sprawl. 

Now, low income seniors are often concentrated in older residential neighborhoods that can be quite some distance from health services that target them. In addition to beefed up senior transit, I have been wondering if health education and self-care counseling might be transformed by the arrival of the fiberhood.

In Kansas City, Kansas at KU's Alzheimer's Disease Center,  a pilot project is underway to use the fast streaming characteristics of the hood to help people living with dementia and their family caregivers by offering  review and consultation on real-time as well as recorded video of behavioral challenges in need of immediate discussion.

I am all for anything that helps the hidden among us who live with dementia and the, also curiously hidden, who are family caregivers for those who live with dementia.  There is shame there. If I learned only one thing in my time on the State of California's Alzheimer's and Dementia State Plan Task Force Advisory Group,it is that family caregivers are deeply ashamed to admit that they may be having trouble caring for a loved one with dementia -- as if it were a failure of love or effort rather than a brain disorder. People living with dementia can be challenging as can family members. Aging into dependence on an adult child (often a senior themselves) is complicated enough a life transition without cognitive impairment added to the mix.

If we are to face the "silver tsunami" of aging Americans with equanimity, we need to be thinking hard about anything we can do to bolster family caregivers in their darkest hours.

 

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