Caring for the Caregivers

June Physician Focus: The Other Side of Alzheimer’s: Caregivers and Families

Posted in alzheimer's disease, behavioral health, Caring for the Caregivers, Physician Focus on May 29th, 2015 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on June Physician Focus: The Other Side of Alzheimer’s: Caregivers and Families

Alzheimer’s disease currently affects some 5.3 million Americans, with most of those over 65 years of age, and as our population ages, its incidence is likely to increase: estimates are that by 2025 another two million  Alzheimer'sseniors will be afflicted.

The toll of Alzheimer’s on patients is cruel and tragic, but the effects of the disease go far beyond the patient, to family members and friends who act as caregivers. And that group is large indeed: More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

To provide some perspective of the impact on caregivers, the June episode of Physician Focus features two health care professionals from Summit ElderCare in Worcester, one of six PACE programs (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) in Massachusetts.

Guests are Susan Hardy, M.D., (photo, center) a board-certified internist with a subspecialty in geriatric medicine and Summit’s Associate Medical Director, and Brenda King, Psy.D., (right) a clinical psychologist with specialties in health psychology and gerontology and Summit’s Behavioral Health Specialist. Hosting this edition is Bruce Karlin, M.D.

The conversation explores such areas as the many demands required of caregivers and families, the difficulties they face, the emotional and physical toll that caregiving takes, the importance of early recognition and planning, the resources available for help, and how a team approach can enhance care.

Physician Focus, now in its 11th consecutive year of production, is available for viewing on public access television stations throughout Massachusetts. It is also available online at www.physicianfocus.org, www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, and on YouTube.

Barbra Streisand and the Practice of Medicine

Posted in Caring for the Caregivers, Physician Health on September 12th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Barbra Streisand and the Practice of Medicine

By Steve Adelman, MD

What do these two pictures of Barbra Streisand tell us about the shifting role of physicians?

In the first picture we see Barbra in her full glory. Alone, on center stage, belting out one of my sister-in-law’s favorite torch songs. You just know that all eyes of the audience are on her, that she is in her element, that she may even be “in the zone.”

In the second picture, Barbra is a member of a chorus, a face in the crowd. To me she looks uncomfortable, almost lost. Other singers appear more engaged in the moment, more enthusiastic. Their eyes are trained off to the left, whereas Barbra looks straight ahead.  Barbara Streisand is no longer in her element.

Many of us went into medicine when the profession promised us autonomy, authority, and some measure of control of our destinies. Physicians were at the center of the health care stage. If we weren’t practicing like solo pilots, we were like ship captains. Our place in the health care hierarchy was at the top.

Medicine has become a team sport. The members of the team are too numerous to count. Some of them are nameless and faceless, yet the roles they play have a material impact on our sense of professional well-being, our livelihoods, and on our ability to maintain a sense of healthy balance in our lives.  The lives of some physicians are becoming increasingly unmanageable, as we endeavor to adapt and adjust to our new professional and societal roles.

All of this is stressful. And stress leads to professional and personal burnout – a sense of physical, emotional, and cognitive exhaustion.

We still have space in our 9th Annual Caring for the Caregivers Conference, “How Do We Reduce Physician Stress and Burnout?” This content-rich one day CME conference will be held on Thursday, Octo­ber 3, 2013, at MMS headquarters. If you choose to participate, you will acquire knowledge and skills to enhance your well-being at work, bulking you up to face the stresses and strains of everyday medical practice.

Register here for the conference, while space is still available.

Dr. Adelman is director of Physician Health Services, Inc., a corporation of the Massachusetts Medical Society. For more information, visit www.physicianhealth.org. Opinions expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Massachusetts Medical Society or Physician Health Services.

 

Where Have All the Smiles Gone?

Posted in Caring for the Caregivers, Physician Health, Steve Adelman on August 26th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Where Have All the Smiles Gone?

By Steve Adelman, MD

What happened to turn the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young house officer (right) into the late career physician (below) whose withering glance strikes fear in the hearts of patients, colleagues and office staff?

The answer, of course, is stress and burnout. The practice of medicine these days is inherently stressful.  The so-called health care system is more complex than ever, and the practice lives of most physicians are replete with all manner of acute and chronic stress.

We are victims of our own success. As life expectancy increases in the face of more and more administrative overload, reimbursements are decreasing. The art and craft of medical practice are gradually giving way to an industrial model of care that runs against the grain of many of our best and brightest. Our profession is in the midst of a painful transition, and legions of physicians feel as though they are wandering in the desert, with no view of the Promised Land in sight.

A Medscape survey earlier this year demonstrated burnout rates ranging from 30 percent to over 50 percent, depending on medical specialty. The hardest hit specialties include internal medicine, family medicine, and ObGyn, along with emergency medicine and critical care.

Medscape defined burnout as “loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment.”  It also involves the trifecta of physical, emotional and cognitive exhaustion.  Little wonder that our late career physician isn’t smiling.

So what can we do to reduce physician stress and burnout?

Come learn about a variety of actionable countermeasures at our upcoming day-long Caring for the Caregivers CME program. Domain experts will share their wisdom on utilizing peer support, resiliency, mindfulness and compassionate care to combat the stresses of everyday medical practice.

Participants will have an opportunity to work in small groups to develop a roadmap for integrating these self-care methods into their daily practice lives. The program will conclude with a spirited feedback session that will involve discussing the matter at hand with a panel of senior health care leaders – an opportunity for dialogue to promote meaningful change on the front lines of medical practice.

Dr. Adelman is director of Physician Health Services, Inc., a corporation of the Massachusetts Medical Society. For more information, visit www.physicianhealth.org. Opinions expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Massachusetts Medical Society or Physician Health Services.