In spite of Mark Twain’s assertion, “There are liars, Damn Liars and then there are Statisticians,” sometimes numbers can tell and paint a very bleak and vivid picture. Current life expectancy for the average 65-year-old is twenty years; In 2008, 35 million Americans were over age 65; By 2030 85 million Americans will be over age 65, and The Fastest growing segment of the population is those over 85. In his monumental, extremely important and timely book, Alone and Invisible No More (Chelsea Green Publishing 2011), Allan S. Teel, MD, a Maine Family Practice physician with a sub-specialization in geriatrics, uses facts like the above to underly the importance of the message he conveys: The Baby Boom generation currently reaching retirement age is a “Gray Tsunami” threatening to bankrupt and swamp an already overburdened medical system unless changes are made.
Instead of wringing his hands and asking what can be done to confront this current and rapidly growing problem, Teel offers viable solutions with examples from his extensive medical practice. Teel’s solutions are up to 90 less expensive than the current option of putting seniors into long term care facilities, well arguably providing better and more effective care which the people receiving the care are much happier with as are their families who have a chance to interact with them even when they live far away.
Teel’s empathy and care for the elderly comes across vividly in this book and his patients and charges get depicted as resources to be valued and not as invalids to be shunted aside, put in a nursing home and forgotten until they die. His approach relies on the basic underlying goodness in most people, and common sense even though it flies in the face of many conventional medical approaches. His approach, the Maine Approach, utilizes readily available relatively inexpensive 21st century technologies to better monitor and care for the people in his charge; thereby, drastically lowering the cost of the services provided while at the same time offering a better standard of care.
Seniors universally want to avoid being placed in a long term care facility or in an assisted living environment, and wish o remain in their own homes. One draw back to living alone is the isolation many seniors experience while remaining in their own homes. Living at home can also make it difficult for the elderly to get the care they need. Part of the Main approach allows seniors to connect with and care for other seniors, sharing their homes and looking after one another well being monitored 24 hours a day through web cams and motion detectors to be sure nothing goes wrong. The web cam and Internet allows family members to interact with the elders on a daily basis even when they live at a great distance. This is not something offered at assisted living facilities.
Some people might think the use of a web cam and long-distance monitoring an invasion of privacy with overtones of Big Brother watching. However, the elders being watched express a sense of security and well being with the system as do their families, both believing it gives them a sense of independence which cannot be found in any other elder care situation. The monitoring allows for problems to be dealt with as they arise, sending in care givers as needed, and not having to maintain a large staff which it not fully utilized.
Doctor Teel has set-up a non-profit corporation to promote the Maine Approach, and others are taking up his package which offers everything he has learned, what works and what doesn’t. The Maine Approach is a blending of compassionate elder care, 21st Century technology and common sense. Teel and his associates are confident enough in their caring and revolutionary approach to offer financing to get others started in giving warm and loving care to elders. An approach that cuts cost up to 90 percent over other methods of caring for and looking after elders, obviously rocks the boat of the vested interests in elder care; therefore, it is understandable Teel’s approach has encountered resistance. Nevertheless, the wisdom and common sense in what Teel and the Maine approach offers is overcoming a great number of the objections and the Maine Approach is spreading across the country.
Anyone with aging parents, or if they are nearing retirement age themselves needs to read this book.
A couple of objections this reviewer has to Doctor Teel’s orientation are beyond the scope of the book. The elderly population is the most medicated segment of the population, and it it becoming more and more so. Many of the elderly become invalids not because of the underlying disease they have, but because of the “medications” administered to treat the disease. This reviewer has a friend who went from being a pharmacist to being a medical doctor to becoming a pharmacological researcher. His medical practice is now limited to consulting with MDs and helping them remove patients from as many medications as possible and closely checking to make sure the remaining medications are not interacting with each other negatively. He shakes his head sadly when I tell him about another friend who works as a roving relief doctor who travels three states, allowing doctors in isolated practices to take vacations. He tries to get patients down to taking no more than 11 medications, though he has encountered patients taking as many as 28 different drugs. My researcher friend says, “That is nuts. There is no way anyone can determine the interactions of more than three or four drugs, and even with that many, it is extremely difficult.” Through his research, he has become convinced that the best medication for curing almost all the degenerative diseases of modern culture is to eat whole unprocessed foods, taking special care to avoid all processed sugars and carbohydrates.
Doctor Teel’s book is what one has come to expect from Chelsea Green Publishing. Chelsea Green Publishing was established by Ian and Margo Baldwin in 1984, with the publication of The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giano. Today, Chelsea Green is considered a major publisher of books on sustainable living. You can purchase this easy to read well written book at http://wwwcheleseagreen.com, and the reviewer highly recommends you do so. In terms of environmental practice, Chelsea Green prints 95 percent of their books on recycled paper with a minimum 30 percent post-consumer waste and aiming for 100 percent whenever possible. This approach is a perfect example of what is called a ”triple bottom line“ practice, one that benefits people, planet, and profit, and the emerging new model for sustainable business