Magazine article Policy & Practice

Reaping the Winds of Change-Spiritual Care to the Elvis Generation

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Reaping the Winds of Change-Spiritual Care to the Elvis Generation

Article excerpt

Between now and 2030, 78 million baby boomers will retire. This number should evoke two major concerns for healthcare professionals--how will our healthcare system care for these people and what does it mean for the health of health care professionals? Economists will tell you that 20 million to 30 million of the baby boom generation will have serious money problems in retirement. Many of us are going to have to work just to make ends meet.

We will bring new expectations of care to the healthcare industry. Medicare is projected to be insolvent by 2019, but that is not going to stop us from demanding more and more quantitative healthcare. In 2005, there were 6,615 geriatricians practicing; by 2030 we will need 36,000 geriatricians. Last year over 500,000 Americans went abroad for medical care and that number is going to skyrocket in future. Major health insurers are under pressure to change their health care overage to include medical treatment overseas.

So, how are you going to care for baby boomers? And even more important, how are you going to care for yourself so you can care for them? Amid the concerns of baby boomers retiring is the spiritual component that underlies the change that is coming to our society. Baby boomer retirement is not just about change--it is about transition.

Change is part of life. Many of us will come to retirement experiencing illness, old age and death as an intellectual experience that happens to our mothers, friends and neighbors, but not to us.

Unfortunately, we have a powerful ally in the modern healthcare industry. Modern medicine focuses on the disease of the patient. We see a doctor to get something fixed. But the modern healthcare industry shies away from serious discussions about illness, old age and death.

As a consequence, even though more and more of us are living longer, we miss the whole point of retirement. Are we supposed to keep consuming, being self-indulgent, traveling the world, demanding more and medical tests to keep us mobile? No! Erik Erikson argued that the major developmental task of old age is to become wise, to make meaning out of our own life experience. The modern healthcare industry is prepared to help baby boomers change, but not transition.

Without spiritual care, healthcare in this country for baby boomers is going to turn into a nightmare because ultimately modern medicine will not be able to fix you; people will come to the end of their days filled with despair. Not only will someone stuck in transition collapse inward, but their family system will also begin to feel the effects of their despair. …

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