As more baby boomers reach age 65 and beyond, Dr. Manuel Jain talks about the growing need for medical care to this age group.
Baby boomers are entering their golden years, roughly 10,000 per day for the next 17 years, and with retirement age and social security come the need for more visits to the doctor. Doctors need to be mindful of how to care best for this increase in their 65 and above patients, so Dr. Manuel Jain, a family medicine specialist with Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center and a Polk County Medical Association member, sat down with Central Florida Doctor to relay the specifics on what to expect and how to help this aging generation of Americans.
Central Florida Doctor (CFDr):Dr. Jain, what makes aging baby boomers different, in terms of healthcare, from past or future age groups of patients?
Dr. Manuel Jain: The aging process hasn’t changed as people are still getting older, but baby boomers are more educated about health and more affluent than their parents were. There are also more health advances than there were previously and baby boomer patients are more in tune with whom they feel they should meet with, regarding doctor and/or specialist. Yet, patients still don’t want to get old. I think of them as “renewed teenagers” for their more focused attempts to stay healthy and young come through in diet, exercise, sleep, and staying away from bad habits.
CFDr:What do doctors need to know about the care of baby boomer patients?
Dr. Jain:Baby boomer patients are more knowledgeable about their health and will tell their doctors who they think they need to see. With geriatric medicine, doctors need to change and monitor how they care for their patients, with not just their medical needs but their emotional needs also. Baby boomers are dealing with health issues that their parents never had to, so they have become more educated on the subject. Doctors also have the resources of geriatric associations and organizations that will update them on the new trends and advice for serving geriatric patients. Being cognizant of the geriatric groups has even been included in the training of doctors in this field. Geriatrics have also become more specialized in services, expanding out to different specialties that baby boomers’ parents didn’t have, such as orthopedic and replacement surgeons.
CFDr:How will the growth of baby boomer patients affect the healthcare market currently?
Dr. Jain:These patients will be more impactful to the market as they are living longer and are more knowledgeable about their health. Doctors and hospitals will learn more through these baby boomer patients in terms of how best to care for them. There needs to be more services for acute care in hospitals for geriatric patients, as they are treated in the same manner as younger patients, than for those of the previous generation in their age bracket. More hearing devices in rooms would help, as would determining if the pain the patient feels is related to age or an undiagnosed illness/issue. They may be tired and think it is because they are getting old but the tiredness and pain may be a condition not yet discovered by the doctor. We also need to provide better health environments for our aging patients, such as quality nursing homes and assisted living homes, so that patients can be more comfortable as they care for themselves or as others care for their health.
CFDr: What advice would you give to doctors caring for our baby boomer generation?
Dr. Jain:Doctors understand that they are treating the person, not the illness. Patients are seeing more people closer to their age passing away and it unsettles them. They also have a stronger fear about getting dementia and memory loss than about suffering a heart attack or stroke, so taking time to talk with their patients and encouraging them to take up new hobbies to stay “young” is a great approach for doctors to take. Also, some baby boomers may have adult children or other family members as caregivers as they grow older. There are not many resources or ways to help caregivers in the physical, emotional, and medical needs of their family members. Doctors should involve the caregivers in the health discussions with their patients and encourage them to ask questions or seek help from the doctors when they need it.