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Elder care the focus of new department at Upstate University Hospital

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Starting this month, geriatrics becomes its own clinical department at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. The change reflects a societal change with more and more older people needing specific attention.

Geriatrics had part of the Department of Medicine. This move puts it on the same level as other specialties, such as Surgery, Psychiatry and Neurology. Upstate Geriatrician Dr. Sharon Brangman will be the new department's inaugural chair, and said the new department will change the way older patients are cared for.

“What you will see is an elevation in the care received by older adults," said Brangman. "And that’s what we are planning to do over time as we increase the number of people we recruit, to provide the care.  We also want to increase the people who can do the teaching to the next generation of health care workers, and increase the people who are doing research, so we know what we are doing is based in evidence."

She said this means the hospital will sharpen its focus on issues that affect the elderly from teaching new doctors to clinical care.

"Certain medications that are given, the doses may be changed. The indications may be different in older people," said Brangman. "The decision to perform a procedure or not, has to be taken into the context of the patients age and their medical problems and the support they have at home.  And if our goal is to try to keep people as functional for as long as possible, we have to look at all these aspects of care. And there are distinct sets of skills in geriatrics that lets us do that.”

Upstate will be one of only a handful of hospitals nationwide with a Geriatrics Department. Statistics show 15 percent of the U.S. population is currently 65 and older, and according to the National Council on Aging, 92 percent have at least one chronic disease, while 77 percent have two.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.