As baby boomers reach their senior years and life expectancy increases, so does the number of older adults who live with both complex chronic diseases, such as heart failure and lung disease, as well as common aging-related conditions and illnesses like dementia, falls and frailty. Nearly 3 million of these baby boomers will reach retirement age every year for the next decade. The phenomenon has put the MGH at the forefront of a transformation in the care of geriatric patients.

“The geriatric population uses the emergency department (ED) exponentially more than patients in any other age group. Navigating the often loud, brightly lit and crowded EDs is already hard enough for those whose brains are healthy and young,” says David Brown, MD, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine, who recognized a need years ago for specialized geriatric care in the ED. “Older patients must be evaluated and treated differently, as they will react differently to medications, face varying challenges with complex chronic illnesses, and have heightened risks associated with routine tests and treatments.”

To address these specific needs of the aging population in the ED, the MGH Department of Emergency Medicine created the Division of Geriatric Emergency Medicine in 2017, the first academic division of its kind in the country, Brown says. The division’s mission is to advance the care of older ED patients through training, education, research and public service.

As part of the MGH LVC’s 150th anniversary recognition in June, the group awarded three grants to deserving programs throughout the hospital. The Division of Geriatric Emergency Medicine was one of those programs.

“The goal of our division is to provide patients with optimal medical care, personalized to maximize their independence and functionality,” says Maura Kennedy, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Geriatric Emergency Medicine. “Unfortunately, the fast-paced and noisy environment of the average ED is suboptimal and sometimes harmful for older patients with cognitive or hearing impairments or physical limitations. This generous grant from the LVC will serve as a catalyst to accelerate our ongoing efforts to improve care for our geriatric patients.”

The funding from the LVC will go toward training the 150 faculty, fellows, residents and advanced practice providers, and will support an educational curriculum designed to increase expertise in clinical management of geriatric syndromes such as frailty and falls, dementia/delirium, medication management, palliative care, post hospital acute care and skilled nursing facility care.

“We are extremely excited and grateful to be chosen by the LVC for this grant,” says Brown. “This is a hugely impactful gift that will benefit the department and our patients for years to come.” 

LVC grants aide hospital programs

In addition to the Division for Geriatric Emergency Medicine grant, the LVC also recognized the following:

Transplant Surgery Patient and Family Logistical Support

James Markmann, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Transplantation, received a grant to help cover the travel costs of MGH Transplant Center patients. More than 40 percent of individuals who come to MGH each year for transplant evaluation travel from outside of Massachusetts. Often unanticipated is an additional, and significant, financial burden for the time and travel commitment required as part of the organ transplant process. The grant will help cover some of the transportation costs including cab fare, ferry or train tickets or parking passes, and provide food vouchers in the hospital.

HOPE Program Support

Sarah Wakeman, MD, medical director of the MGH Substance Use Disorders (SUD) Initiative, was awarded an LVC grant for the hospital’s HOPE (Harnessing Support for Opioid and Substance Use Disorders in Pregnancy and Early Childhood) Program – a multidisciplinary integrated program for pregnant women with SUD offering a medical home for care during the prenatal period and for up to two years postpartum. While the clinic can provide medical care, many patients face the inability to obtain basic necessities for themselves and their children. The grant will be used to cover the costs of transportation vouchers, child care, food and supplies such as bottles and diapers.