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North County Summit Focuses On Economic Impact Of Aging Population

By Alison St John

Panelists at the San Diego North Economic Development Council health care summit include Dr. Michael Lobatz, Scripps Rehabilitation Center, Mary Ball, president the San Diego Alzheimer's Association, Leslie Ray, San Diego County Senior epidemiologist and moderator Paul Sisson, of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 29, 2015.

The San Diego North Economic Development Council Health Care Summit warned that a new model of care for the aging is needed.

The San Diego North Economic Development Council and Tri-City Medical Center put on a health care summit in the newly remodeled Veterans Association of North County building in Oceanside.

Summit panelists said a new model of health care for seniors is needed to soften the dramatic economic impact of an aging population.

"A huge epidemic is upon us - a coming tsunami of degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's,” Leslie Ray, senior epidemiologist with San Diego County Heath and Human Services said.

Alzheimer’s is now the third leading cause of death in San Diego County, Ray said. It is reportedly the fifth leading cause of death in California and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

An estimated one-third to half of all those over the age of 85 have Alzheimer's, she said.

The lifetime costs of caring for those already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia in the county is between $13 billion and $27 billion, Ray said.

Affluent, well educated people may be more likely to self-report cognitive impairment, Ray said. This population may also be more likely to live alone.

“Carlsbad through to Escondido - right across that area - you have some of the highest numbers in the county of people who have self reported that they are having cognitive difficulty,” Ray said.

Palliative care

Sharon Hamill is with CSU San Marcos, which has the only Institute of Palliative Care in California. She said a grass roots change is needed in how care is provided, to avoid overwhelming families and the health care system.

The Institute is training care givers to work more collaboratively to provide alternatives to hospital stays.

"It actually does reduce health care costs, increases life span and also increases the quality of life," Hamill said. “And if we ignore those things, we’re going to deliver health care that is more costly and probably not what the patient wants, anyway.”

Hamill said the impact of aging may be as big as that of women entering the workforce in the 1970s.

Summit participants said businesses must play a role in adapting to the needs of employees who are caring for aging relatives. One silver lining is the opportunity for new businesses to provide support services for this growing population.

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