great idea!

Just reading the news this AM as I wait to do what I need to do with various, er, containers.

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting story – what a great idea!
He’s not a patient, but plays one for class
Students studying geriatrics in Maine live for weeks in N.E. nursing homes
By June Q. Wu
Globe Correspondent / July 19, 2010
Full story at the Boston Globe

Matthew Sharbaugh checked himself into a nursing home recently, complaining of chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, congestive heart failure, and right-side weakness from a recent stroke. He is 24.

Sharbaugh had signed away his youth for the next 12 days to play the part of an 85-year-old man in ailing health at the Old Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea.

A second-year student at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, Sharbaugh is one of six students living in a New England nursing home this summer as part of the school’s Learning by Living experiment, founded in 2005 to provide students interested in geriatrics with firsthand experience of the care of the elderly. This year is the first the program has expanded to include a facility in the Boston area.

Sharbaugh, who keeps a daily journal chronicling his observations, said last week: “I never really noticed how hard it is to live like this. I just always thought of old people as grumpy people who are easily upset.’’

By his fourth day, Sharbaugh, of Simsbury, Conn., came to appreciate the patience needed to cope with the daily frustrations facing wheelchair users: a misplaced TV remote, a notice posted too high.

Adjusting to his new life took time. His wheelchair beeped alarmingly every time he tried getting up or shifting his weight. His diet of pureed foods did little to satisfy his appetite. The first time he showered, he was unable to turn his wheelchair and ended up washing just the left side of his body.

Going to the bathroom became an art. With a twinge of shame, Sharbaugh learned to coordinate his bathroom trips with nurse shifts to avoid asking the same care provider for help more than once.

From his wheelchair, Sharbaugh also picks up on details that can enhance or detract from the quality of care for elderly patients.

He notes the importance of communicating at eye-level with the patient, of explaining medical procedures to the elderly and not simply to their adult children.

“It’s extremely difficult to hear the medical jargon and not know what it refers to,’’ Sharbaugh wrote in his journal. “When I have my practice, I will have to be sure to explain the patient’s care in terms that he or she will understand.’’

Established by his gerontology professor, Marilyn Gugliucci, Learning by Living is billed as the only program in the country that allows students to live for two weeks as patients in participating nursing homes, which willingly forgo the revenue, roughly $300 a day for 12 days, to support the initiative.

Gugliucci, who is the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s director of geriatric education and research, said she hopes to expand the program into a national fellowship for students interested in geriatrics.

….“There is a face and story behind every patient,’’ Sharbaugh wrote. “The patient should not be viewed by the conditions that ail them, but by the person beneath the disease.’’

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1 Comment

  1. R. G. Maines

     /  July 20, 2010

    This is an interesting idea. It’s so important that people who work with the elderly, disabled or chronically ill develop an understanding of the people they are caring for.

    The disability agency I used to work for sponsored a day every year when the city officials had to ‘adopt’ a disability for the day. They used wheel chairs, wore glasses that simulated blindness, etc. Helping them to understand how people with disabilities in the community are challenged.

    Disability, Chronic Illness, Age, shouldn’t define anyone.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

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