Mar 05 2010

Rowe: More training is required of dog groomers than of people who care for elders

Posted at 8:55 pm under AGHE conference 2010

In California, at least, less training is required to become a dog groomer than to provide care to an elder.

That astonishing fact was one of many shared by Dr. John W. Rowe at the opening plenary session of the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.  The conference opened on Thursday, March 4, at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

Rowe, coauthor of the acclaimed book “Successful Aging,” is the former chairman and CEO of the health insurance company Aetna Inc. Currently a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, he chaired a study group of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy Sciences that came up with recommendations to improve the availability and quality of health care for elders in the United States.

Almost all of the recommendations from the study group’s report are included in the current health-care legislation being debated in the Senate.

Rowe described how the number of geriatric specialists has actually been decreasing in recent years in spite of the fact that elders consume the most health care and elders are becoming a greater percentage of the population.

He said fewer people have been going into geriatrics for several reasons: negative stereotypes about older people; the high cost of training for geriatric certification; and lower incomes geriatricians can expect because most elders are insured by Medicare, and Medicare reimbursement rates are lower than for private health insurance.

He also noted the low standards for elder care. In California, not only dog groomers but cosmetologists and crossing guards also are required to have more training than people providing care to elders, he said.

The study group’s recommendations fall into three categories, he said:

  • Enhance competence of the general workforce in regard to common problems of aging;
  • Increase recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and caregivers;
  • Implement innovative models of care.

He said he’s hopeful of change, given how quickly the recommendations were adopted by the Congress.

“This may be an idea whose time has come.”

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