Nov. 13, 2013: On Sunday afternoon, November 3, Gramatan Village hosted a talk by Dr. Mark Lachs, director of geriatrics for the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, which attracted a large, attentive crowd to the Bronxville Public Library's Yeager Room.
With the aid of cartoons, graphs, and a lot of humorous patient-related anecdotes, Dr. Lachs spoke about the challenges and opportunities of aging, information that is summarized in his book, What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Getting Older: An Insider's Survival Manual for Outsmarting the Health-Care System.
Dr. Lachs urged everyone to "take responsibility for your own care". You should be especially alert during "care transitions" when moving from one health care place or provider to another, such as going from the hospital to your home or from a specialist to your primary doctor. This is a dangerous time when information can be lost. How not to be a victim of care transition? Assume your medical records will be lost, do not rely on electronic records, and carry a "greatest hits" list with you, including all your vital information, such as a photocopy of your most recent EKG.
Dr. Lachs also warned family members to look out for delirium--a sudden disturbance in a patient's thinking ability, involving confusion and disorientation--which is epidemic among hospitalized older adults, and he outlined proven interventions that can prevent or reduce the condition.
Not only hospitals can make you sick. According to Dr. Lachs, your home can make you seem sick. One patient who kept falling went through batteries of expensive tests, but when Dr. Lachs visited her home he noticed that her armchair and her carpet were the same color. Adding a different color cushion helped her sit without falling. He went over numerous other simple, inexpensive fixes that can keep older people safely at home.
Perceptions about aging also contribute to a person's well-being. Concepts such as "as you become older you become less useful," "it's normal to become disabled as you age," and "things keep getting worse as you age," can shorten a life by as much as seven years. The aim of Dr. Lachs and other geriatricians is "not to add years to your life but to add life to your years."
Dr. Lachs's final admonition was: "The meek do not inherit the earth. You need to be proactive and take responsibility for your own care. If you want to find your best primary care provider, simply look in the mirror!"
Dr. Lachs's talk will be broadcast on the Bronxville cable channel; to request a copy of the presentation, send an email to
Pictured here: Dr. Mark Lachs.
Photo courtesy Julie Dalton, Executive Director, Gramatan Village