Dr. Eleanor Barbera

Three new books on aging and healthcare recently crossed my desk, each with completely different takes on our industry.

One focuses on ways in which companies, including long-term care organizations, can save on healthcare costs. In another, the author’s insights into elder wisdom can be used by facilities to add to the quality of life of residents. The final book offers an outsider’s view into how our field is perceived by older adults and their families.

Cost savings

In “Health-Wealth: 9 Steps to Financial Recovery,” author Josh Luke, Ph.D., a former hospital CEO turned “healthcare futurist,” argues that our healthcare delivery system is so badly broken that we should seek a new model for the healthcare needs of employees.

He outlines a method to implement a consumer-driven model that improves pricing transparency and control over costs. Some of the suggestions are likely to both reduce expenses and increase employee satisfaction. For example, an organization-wide emphasis on health and wellness can be a popular program with medical savings.

Other ideas, such as charging the employee a percentage of care costs over their maximum deductible, won’t be universally appealing but could influence workers to choose more affordable “centers of value” during a health crisis.

If organizations find creative ways to reduce healthcare expenditures for their employees, the market is bound to shift in unexpected directions — and that’s exactly what “industry disruptor” Josh Luke is hoping for.

Quality of life

The second book, “The End of Old Age” by Marc Agronin, M.D., offers a hopeful view of aging that will resonate with those in the field.

I was particularly struck by the fact that Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist, began his book with a chapter on why we should grow old, addressing issues around end of life choices and the way we approach old age. The foundation of acknowledging that some people don’t actually want to live to old age is a crucial exploration that sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Subsequent chapters point to the value of aging in very specific ways. While older adults may not surpass younger people at tasks that require speed or visual acuity, for example, Agronin details five different forms of wisdom in which elders excel. The book includes tools so that others, such as families and staff members, can use his model to help elders make use of their strengths and recognize their purpose at this phase of life.

It’s also a good book for those who might be feeling burned out working with this population. Agronin’s compassion and appreciation for elders will leave readers with renewed enthusiasm for their profession.

LTC in the public eye

I was curious to see how nursing homes would be portrayed in “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?” Author Joy Loverde is an aging and eldercare advisor whose book, like her previous guide, “The Complete Eldercare Planner,” is geared toward those seeking practical advice in navigating challenging aspects of their senior years.

Our industry doesn’t fare well in this volume. Loverde offers scathing criticism of assisted living facilities, stating that living in that environment is akin to, “surrendering your autonomy and personal dignity … letting your illness define you … and [giving] up on thriving, growing and contributing to society.” Nursing homes, she believes, are worse.

There are passing nods to the Green House Project and the Eden Alternative, but most of the book is dedicated to finding ways to avoid long-term care.

The value of understanding this widely held viewpoint is that it points to areas in which facilities can improve in both fact and marketing. For example, a recreation program based on Agronin’s “Why We Age” would address all of Loverde’s concerns and assuage the fears of potential customers.

Despite its criticism of the industry, many readers will find the guide an empowering resource for people seeking to maintain functioning at the lowest possible level of care.

I usually get my news and info in small bites online, but I’m glad I took the time for a deeper dive into these perspectives on aging and healthcare. Josh Luke increased my understanding of the forces affecting change in the healthcare industry, Marc Agronin offered an inspiring conceptualization of elders and aging, and Joy Loverde reminds us how much farther we need to go in making our facilities a desirable option for those who need care.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is the Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category of the American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with over 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.