Staying in the Game
At 101 years old, Adelaide Iverson regularly attends Stanford University athletic competitions—recently enjoying three baseball games in a single weekend. For her 100th birthday, the head coaches of the Stanford football, baseball and basketball teams all sent her cards. While losses get her down, she hasn’t lost her enjoyment of sports. This helps her team of caregivers at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) focus on Adelaide’s passions, as they create a care plan to keep her doing what she loves.
“Not everyone has the same interests but we should keep trying different things no matter your age,” says Adelaide. “I feel appreciated and cared for by PAMF.”
Her advice for those entering their 9th and 10th decades, “Surround yourself with people, both family and friends. While you might not be able to do the things you used to do, try to find joy in other ways.”
Great Care Right at Home
When she’s not attending sporting events or spending time with family, she keeps her mind active even if her body is not always cooperating. Starting each morning by reading the New York Times, son Dave describes his mother as active and engaged. “The other day she was having trouble writing and told me, ‘I’m going to practice my writing.’ “How many 101 year olds would say they wanted to practice anything?” Dave wonders.
Adelaide has received her health care from PAMF for decades. Her long time physician, Dr. Margaret Forsyth, realized that coming into the office for regular visits was difficult and stressful. She introduced Adelaide to Dr. Steve Lai, leader of palliative care at PAMF, and home visits started every two months. The palliative care program at PAMF has pioneered the delivery of compassionate care from a team of specialists to address physical, psychological and social needs while honoring their patient’s life goals. The results are improved health, independence and quality of life.
“There is a psychological benefit to getting the very best care with visits in your own home. Plus, Dave is comfortable reaching out to us any time for reassurance or advice on his mother’s care,” Dr. Forsyth says.
“I got to know her in her own home, to understand what is important to her, and together with her son Dave, we decided on the best care plan possible. I want Adelaide to have a full life, aging successfully while grappling with common chronic medical conditions associated with aging,” Dr. Lai says.
Dave and Adelaide are sharing their experience to raise awareness for a growing care gap. They know health care providers, the community, government and businesses all have to work together to help everyone age as gracefully as his own mother. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people over 60 is forecast to double by 2030. Dave has reached this age group himself, and diagnosed with a serious chronic illness of his own, he appreciates PAMF’s efforts to help our community age gracefully.
“Dr. Forsyth and Dr. Lai bring so much compassion and personal attention, it has really meant a lot to me,” says Dave. “Both physicians return my calls promptly and answer all of my questions. PAMF has been fantastic. Dr. Forsyth even came to my mom’s 100th birthday.”
PAMF palliative care is one of only 20 California-based institutions invited to participate in a consortium led by the California HealthCare Foundation, tasked with guiding the integration of palliative care across the health care continuum. For Dr. Lai and his colleagues overseeing geriatric and palliative care for the community, he is excited to be at the forefront of this important work.
“Palliative care is a major gap in our health care system. When a person leaves a hospital there can be fragmentation in the delivery of care. Palliative care is the link of continuity, working to keep the community healthier,” says Lai.
Building a strong foundation for the team at PAMF to help more seniors will keep others like Adelaide cheering for their favorite teams.
"Palliative care is the link of continuity, working to keep the community healthier."
- Steve Lai, M.D.