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With the aging of the Baby Boomers, and the increased life expectancies of their parents (and even grandparents), there is an ever-growing concern around improving care for elder patients. In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the increased need for elder care is one of the largest-growing sections of the healthcare industry. As more people look for newer and better care options to suit their lifestyle, income, and medical needs, this aspect of our healthcare system will only continue to grow.
Given that 91% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are over the age of 55, there is a big overlap in the approach taken to elder care and how mesothelioma patients receive care, including everything from diagnosis to treatment to recurring appointments for survivors. Not only do mesothelioma patients need someone who understands the nuances of this rare disease, they also need someone who understands the complexities of tending to elder patients.
How the NICHE Program Improves Elder Care
One group working to up the ante when it comes to elder care is Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders – also known as NICHE, a name which properly reflects the specialized skills required for geriatric patients. Based at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing at New York University, NICHE works with nearly 700 hospitals across the United States and Canada, as well as Bermuda and Singapore.
The NICHE program is both a nurse-driven and nurse-focused program, which means that not only is it created by nurses, but it focuses on improving the knowledge, administration, and cooperation of nurses throughout the program. It does this by providing leadership training, online and instructor-led courses, project management tools, consultation and evaluation of a facility’s existing nursing plans, and an annual 4-day conference for members.
The effect of all this is that the hospitals that have adopted NICHE practices have shown a distinct ability to improve patient outcomes while reducing the length of stays for most patients. Furthermore, they have been able to do so while cutting the costs of care – an outcome that is beneficial for everyone, including patients. These positive outcomes achieved by NICHE were described in a 2012 discursive paper about “nurse practice environments,” and they have been recognized again more recently by a $1.5 million grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving care for older adults.
Improving Elder Care Helps Mesothelioma Patients
As noted above, the vast majority of mesothelioma patients are over the age of 55 when diagnosed. With the number of mesothelioma cases expected to continue rising through 2020, that number will only increase. Therefore, any projects that focus on improving elder care can only help mesothelioma patients in the long run.
Because of the growth of the elder care industry, it’s important to make sure that programs like NICHE continue to thrive and grow. While NICHE itself is focused on partnering with hospitals, making sure it (and programs like it) continue to expand their services and influence to other areas – such as by partnering with nurses who provide at-home care, or by developing programs for family caregivers who are not nurses – is critical for making sure mesothelioma patients receive the aid they need.