Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Enhancing Long-Term Care for Older Adults: An Exploration of Interagency Collaboration within Geriatric Education Centers

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Enhancing Long-Term Care for Older Adults: An Exploration of Interagency Collaboration within Geriatric Education Centers

Article excerpt

As the number of older adults in America continues to increase, the incidence of chronic illness in older adults is also rising. In many states, the current health care system is not prepared to meet the comprehensive healthcare needs of aging adults. Quite often, these adults are treated by physicians that focus on a specific diagnosis, while the patient may be struggling with the challenges of multiple health problems. A lack of coordinated care for older adults results, which often hinders their overall wellness plans and quality of life. This problem may be exacerbated by both the impending shortage of health care professionals, as well as a lack of comprehensive interdisciplinary training for health care professionals. The impending shortage of geriatricians to treat the baby boomer generation along with a fragmented health care system present critical issues, including the ability to practice in an interdisciplinary milieu (Mezey et al, 2008), that require a collaborative approach to find solutions.

In response to these issues, a number of governmental and nonprofit agencies have provided support for supplemental interdisciplinary training for health care providers. These resources emphasize the need to create and implement comprehensive healthcare plans for older adults. One such avenue of support has come through geriatric training programs designed to strengthen the training of healthcare professionals. In 1998, Congress enacted the Public Health Service Act ("the Act") under Title VII Part D, in which they recognized "the beneficial impact that interdisciplinary community-based linkages can have upon the quality and availability of health care services to populations that have traditionally been underserved or are otherwise medically vulnerable" (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Resources and Services Administration, n.d.). The Act provided funding to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and specifically the division of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide renewed support for Geriatric Programs that would provide training for physicians, dentists, and behavioral/mental health professionals. From a federal government perspective, a partnership with nonprofit entities was established to provide training for health care professionals committed to a comprehensive care approach, encourage interdisciplinary team care education for health professionals, and enhance the performance measures and inspection guidelines for this type of training (Klein 1995). The partnership was developed through the creation of Geriatric Education Centers (GECs), which are facilities often housed within university medical centers, that incorporate partnerships with the universities, the federal government, other GECs, as well as community agencies and partners.

This article addresses how the field of geriatric education provides a collaborative working environment between and among both nonprofits and government in order to effectively manage the challenges of chronic illnesses in older adults. The research project is conducted within the context of evaluating Geriatric Education Centers as a delivery system for collaborative health care training services. In the case of GECs the opportunity for collaboration may be found in both 1) an interagency approach between the centers, which are located across the United States, and 2) an interdisciplinary approach as each GEC incorporates materials and seeks to train healthcare professionals from a wide range of disciplines to strengthen their knowledge and skills in the geriatric discipline. The primary research question was "to what extent do GECs collaborate with each other in the effort to enhance geriatric education and service provision?" Secondary questions within the research included 1) how existing partnerships operate and 2) the extent to which local and regional communities participate in their jurisdictional GEC operations. …

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