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Senator talks about aging

Linda Hiller

As the population ages, and technology advances, the two factors must meet and assimilatesomewhere along the line .

In order to help this process, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada is bringing hearings entitled, “The Many Faces of Long-Term Care: Today’s Bitter Pill or Tomorrow’s Cure?” to Nevada next week.

Hearings are planned in Las Vegas on Monday, and in Reno on Tuesday. The Northern Nevada hearing will be broadcast by satellite to Battle Mountain, Elko, Ely, Hawthorne, Lovelock, Winne- mucca and Yerington.

“To my knowledge, this will be the first Senate aging committee hearing ever broadcast to multiple sites,” Reid, 57, said.

Reid, one of the senior members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said the face of geriatric care has changed over the last 10 years.

“Now, more people are trying to stay home and out of rest homes as they get older,” he said Thursday from Gardnerville.

Because of this shift by older Americans, Reid said the field of home health care will need, since many people who stay in their homes will require paid help.

“Right now, there is the potential for a lot of fraud,” he said.

For many children of seniors who choose to stay in their homes, roles in caring for aging parents can find them in a world without a break – not unlike that of a new parent.

“A man called into a radio show I was a guest on,” Reid said. “He was 62 and his wife was 51, and they were taking care of his mother, who was in her 80s and who required around-the-clock care. The man said he and his wife had no relief in their duties, and needed some sort of respite care for a break. I do think we should make a commitment to people who are taking care of older parents and give them some sort of regular respite break.”

Reid said the field of long-term care is changing so rapidly that the debate over all aspects should continue through forums such as the upcoming hearings.

One of the areas important to Reid is mental health for seniors, specifically senior suicide. Reid’s own father, Harry, committed suicide in 1972.

“I saw a poll of seniors and one-third of them said they’d rather die than go into a rest home,” Reid said. “This is why this hearing is important. I think it’s our responsibility to change the system so that people don’t want to die because they think they’ll be going into a dungeon.”

Reid said one of the areas recently added to the Older Americans Act is music therapy.

He told of a woman in Las Vegas who visited her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, in a nursing home. Day after day, the grandmother didn’t respond.

“One day, the granddaughter started singing a song that she remembered from her childhood, and when her grandmother heard it, she came alive and sang every word,” he said. “They’re finding more and more about music therapy all the time.”

With the increase in the population of senior citizens, Reid said the current shortage of doctors specializing in geriatric medicine will skyrocket.

Reid has sponsored two bills – the Geriatricians Loan Forgive- ness Act and the Medicare Physician Workforce Improvement Act to increase geriatric specialists.

Following the hearing at 11:30 a.m., panelists will be available to answer questions.

The Northern Nevada hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in the Mack Auditorium at the Washoe Medical Center, 77 Pringle Way in Reno.

For more information, call Reid’s office at 882-7343.