Oral health has long been shunted to the sidelines of the healthcare system, but as this issue of Generations demonstrates, oral health is interconnected with overall health and well-being. The Fall 2016 issue of Generations includes more than a dozen articles that clearly demonstrate how oral health has become a matter of public neglect, what the effects of oral health are upon overall health, and what policy changes might work to ensure oral healthcare becomes part of the healthcare system and is funded, likely through Medicare.
Oral health has routinely been excluded from public policy initiatives aimed at improving access to and quality of healthcare in the United States. Extending back to the debates around the creation of Medicare and Medicaid and continuing through to the more recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) discussions, oral health has consistently been left out of policy proposals aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of America’s older adults.
Oral health contributes significantly to self-esteem and quality of life. The ability to smile without embarrassment, to articulate speech clearly, to taste and chew food, and to be free of pain are key for well-being. The high prevalence of dental caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease is a major public health concern with attendant costs for treatment, loss of productivity, diminished comfort and function, and increased risks to systemic health.
Compassion fatigue, also called “vicarious traumatization”, is the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those in need and suffering. Symptoms of stress, distress, and burnout in caregivers, family members, and providers can occur without realizing it.
Maria (a fictional example) is a 71-year-old Latina transgender woman admitted to the geriatric extended care unit of a hospital. A Vietnam-era veteran who served three years in the Army, Maria was divorced 15 years ago and has three children, two of whom live out of state. She lives with Silvia, her partner of five years. Although she says she has been relatively healthy, Silvia told VA providers that Maria has had increasing trouble remembering things, and has needed more assistance with paying bills, cooking and properly taking her medications.
Do you remember what you were doing on March 23, 2015? The 2016 Presidential election began that day when Senator Ted Cruz announced he was running for the Republican nomination. Now, a full 596 days later, the 2016 election has had a stunning ending with Donald Trump elected as President and Mike Pence as Vice President.