Dr. Heather Brislen, a private practice clinician and co-medical director of the New Mexico Care of the Older Patient ECHO, is helping lead the geriatric care program for Project ECHO. Dr. Nitin Budhwar, an associate professor with UNM’s Department of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, is also serving as the ECHO program’s co-medical director.
The program focuses on educating clinicians on specialized care for New Mexicans that are 60 and older. Budhwar said the program will help clinicians better understand mental health, cognitive impairment and risk and prevention of falls, among other issues that seniors in the state face.
“It’s sort of along those lines (of) tackling a lot of conditions that you will see a lot more in an older population, and sort of superimposing that on aging physiology and ensuring that the care provided is appropriate,” Budhwar said.
Brislen said geriatric care is ever-changing as new groups of people age throughout the years. That not only provides a challenge in creating better geriatric care but also helps with creating a more holistic approach in treating aging seniors.
“The cool thing that an aging baby boomer generation is showing us is a real refusal to sacrifice their autonomy and independence in a way that we haven’t seen before. And that’s a good challenge for us,” Brislen said.
The palliative care program tackles some different issues in health care.
Palliative care focuses on patients who are receiving end of life treatment and those with life-threatening illnesses. The program focuses on helping clinicians better understand “integrated approaches for treating pain” that can include symptom management and even spiritual and existential suffering, said Dr. Lisa Marr, chief of the UNM division of Palliative Medicine. She’s helping run the program with UNM Associate Professor Dr. Chris Piromalli.
The palliative care program includes a team of physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains.
“There’s never going to be enough palliative care specialists to care for everyone who needs it,” Marr said. “And that’s why we’re training as many people as possible in primary palliative care.”