Dec 13, 2011, 1:00 PM, Posted by Alicia Arbaje
Alicia I. Arbaje, MD, MPH, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program and the RWJF Clinical Scholars program. She is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Transitional Care Research, Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, at Johns Hopkins University.
Human Capital Blog: Can you describe the typical patient you see on a daily basis?
Alicia Arbaje: As a geriatrician, I see patients who have complex chronic illness. Usually they’re over the age of 65, and even more commonly over 80. Many of my patients have more than one chronic illness, take several medications, and see multiple doctors. These are people who are interacting with the health system frequently, and they go in and out of the hospital quite a bit. Health care takes up a big portion of their life.
HCB: Do these patients have caregivers?
Arbaje: Most of them do. The ones who are fortunate do. Most often that caregiver is a daughter or a son, sometimes a spouse, neighbor, or a friend. Their responsibilities range from supervising – making sure the patient gets to an appointment or taking notes during a visit – all the way to doing things for the patient like feeding them and helping them dress. Some caregivers have an additional responsibility of making health care decisions, like what kind of treatments they get and the end of life care they receive. It’s very important that I work with their caregiver too because most of the patients aren’t able to do all the things they need to do to stay healthy on their own.
HCB: Your job and research focus on transitional care. What exactly is that? What role do caregivers play in transitional care?
Arbaje: Any time a patient moves from one health care setting or provider to another, that’s a care transition. For example, going home from the hospital or going from home to a doctor’s office. Care transitions are actually dangerous moments, and when caregivers need to be most involved in their loved one’s care.