Seniors seek to remain independent, and their caregivers want to support that goal. At the same time, there are factors working against greater independence. Part of it comes down to the nature of aging.
Declining health inevitably takes its toll on independence. At the same time, the nature of health care delivery may also work against greater independence.
For too long, healthcare has been delivered in silos – a “chaotic” experience with practitioners cut off from one another, often unaware of what drugs or treatments a patient may be receiving from someone else. There’s an answer to this. It’s called care coordination, and it’s a model that encourages doctors to communicate and collaborate with one another openly and often.
Coordination of care can be a powerful tool in helping seniors to retain their independence – and here’s how:
For many seniors, independence declines as a results of Multiple Chronic Conditions, or MCC. In some cases, a constellation of ailments including high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, emphysema, and depression may affect a single individual. These conditions not only take a toll on seniors’ well being – they can also affect the amount of medical resources they consume: seniors with MCC are three times more likely to use healthcare resources as seniors without chronic conditions.
In terms of independence, MCC also means reduced day-to-day functioning, accompanied by greater frailty. All these factors diminish independence. When physicians coordinate care, however, it becomes easier to manage multiple conditions. Coordination of care ensures medications will not conflict, helps safeguard against some symptom going unnoticed as a senior moves from one provider to another, and can improve overall quality of care and quality of life for the individual.
How else can care coordination help to ensure independence?
Keeping loved ones in the loop.
Families often find themselves left out of the healthcare loop, unable to connect with doctors and yet simultaneously unsure whether the information they receive from their elder loved ones is complete and accurate. As a partner in the coordination of care, family members are better able to observe and understand, and in some cases to help seniors make informed choices, thus enhancing a senior’s ability to remain independent.
For senior housing operators, the administration of medications is a weighty responsibility – something that has to be done right, every time. This can be challenging when multiple orders come in from multiple physicians. Coordination among doctors makes it easier to ensure that all medications are accounted for and that none is likely to contraindicate another. Having the right medicine makes it that much easier for seniors to maintain their daily independence.
Better organization of care.
Within senior housing, clinical directors can do much to foster care coordination. Medication administration is just one example. In a more global move, senior housing communities can hire full-time care coordination experts: individuals whose job it is to enhance resident independence by facilitating ready communications among physicians, clinics and hospitals. The care coordinator can be a vital link in the chain that connects doctors, patients, families and caregivers within the senior housing community.
The role of technology and software.
One final consideration when it comes to fostering independence through coordinated care is the application of smart software systems. Today’s cutting edge internal communications products not only facilitate conversation between residents and administrators and staff, butalso can include scheduling functions and sophisticated calendars. By ensuring residents get to the right appointments at the right time, clinical directors can help to coordinate care and, ultimately, make it more likely that seniors will be able to maintain their independence as well.
In the effort to foster independence, is your community ready to help coordinate care?