Accessing quality healthcare can be a complicated dilemma for elderly patients with mobility impairments. Transportation to doctors’ offices is not only a challenging burden for patients themselves; it can also create stress for loved ones who don’t have the physical ability or flexibility in their schedules to facilitate the visits. Because of the difficulty of attending appointments, many seniors end up in the emergency room for ailments that could have been treated in a simpler fashion if addressed earlier. Worse, some elderly patients find themselves having to choose an ambulance ride to the emergency room over a regular visit to a primary care provider or specialist because the latter is not as financially or physically practical for them.
When unnecessary emergency department visits started to become too frequent for elders, GBMC HealthCare took notice and developed the Support Our Elders Program. “As a society, we have challenges as to how we can afford to care for elders in the manner we would want, particularly at home,” says W. Anthony Riley, MD, geriatrician and Chief Medical Officer of Gilchrist Services. “The Support Our Elders Program was born out of the recognition of the need to go where the patients are.”
The program provides home healthcare medical management and coordination of care for patients age 75 and older who meet a set of eligibility criteria. Many patients have multiple chronic conditions and are increasingly limited in their ability to independently perform the personal activities of daily living. Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Beverly Ruiz leads the program and provides patients with physical and cognitive assessments, medication and symptom management and advanced care planning. “We want patients and families to feel supported and confident in any transitions they need to make,” she says. “I work with people on their level and carefully explain the next steps of treatment.”
Linda Henderson, BSN, RN-BC, the Clinical Care Manager for the Support Our Elders program, has seen firsthand how this comprehensive in-home healthcare has improved the quality of life for older patients and their families. “We don’t just treat a symptom; we are addressing the whole patient, developing a care plan and treating the caregivers’ needs, too,” she says. “We have communication, connection and continuity.”
Estelle Langstrom is a Support Our Elders patient who came to the program after getting sick with pneumonia and failing to find a doctor who could come to her. She had no way to access care without the help of an ambulance; now Beverly provides the services she needs in the comfort of her own home. “Someone is always there for me,” Estelle says. “No matter what time of day, I get my questions answered.”
If you or a loved one is in need of home healthcare, call the Support Our Elders Program at 443-849-6257 or visit their website at www.gilchristservices.org/soe for the full list of eligibility criteria and program benefits. To see a video with more of Estelle Langstrom’s story and to learn more about the program, visit http://bit.ly/1R7pORw.