Too often, healthcare in our society has been defined as a response to an illness or injury that has already occurred. If there is anywhere that this should not be the case, it’s in senior living, where residents are already understood to be at higher risk.
Community and clinical directors need to come at it from a different angle. They need to think in terms of proactive care: the practice of monitoring their residents’ health status and intervening when there are early signs of potential problems to prevent negative health events before they occur.
Proactive care can improve quality of life, grow move-ins and increase length of stay, improve staff satisfaction and even reduce labor costs. Moreover, proactive care can help a senior housing operation to avoid undue expenses, for example in the form of legal action. In one case a provider recently received a $23 million penalty after a resident developed pressure ulcers that led to fatal complications.
How can a clinical director implement proactive care? Here are a few examples based on common medical conditions among seniors.
Diabetes may drive a range of ailments, from kidney failure to heart attacks. A number of proactive measures can help to manage the condition. Ongoing monitoring is key, with caregivers charged to track sugar levels, lipids and other key indicators. Proactive management also asks caregivers to keep a watchful eye on diet and exercise, key components in the effort to keep diabetes in check. A sophisticated internal communications system, such as those facilitated by community management technology or EHR software, helps to make such tracking possible.
A common ailment among older adults, depression can be a debilitating condition, but it also can be mitigated by proactive care. For example, caregivers can ensure seniors get regular exercise – anything from a gym workout to a walk in the park. Community directors can work to ensure that seniors at risk for depression stay connected with family, friends and their communities, as social engagement and community involvement are thought to be a key drivers in depression management. Here again, a system that facilitates ongoing communications between residents, staff, family and friends can be a key element in success.
Another common complaint among seniors with limited mobility, bedsores can be prevented and managed through thoughtful, proactive care. Changes in position are key. This may include repositioning in a wheelchair or in a bed, based on automated notifications to caregivers when residents with decreased mobility have been in the same position for too long. Likewise, skin care is a leading proactive measure, with caregivers delivering ongoing cleaning and protection to affected areas.
These are just a few of the ways in which a senior housing enterprise can improve quality of care and enhance seniors’ quality of life. In the case of almost every ailment common among older adults, there are ways you can make a difference today through proactive, preventative care.
While this may sound like a potential burden on an already overburdened staff, new technologies go a long way toward helping simplify and streamline the process.
For example, sensor-based monitoring powered by artificial intelligence can track seniors’ wellness and identify problem areas before they become significant issues. By notifying caregivers when the warning signs of negative health events first appear, passive alerts make it possible to deliver preventive care with ease and efficiency.
Likewise, sophisticated digital communications and engagement portals can serve a number of useful purposes here. More efficient communications may help staff to understand which residents are most immediately in need of a proactive intervention. Plus, these tools can also enhance seniors’ social connectedness and engagement. By keeping them better connected to family, friends, and their communities, you can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness and mitigate the all too common clinical depression that can result.
Does your community deliver proactive care on the most common senior ailments? If not, it may be time to review your tools and processes to do so, and update your quality of care capabilities.