After 16 years of working in senior living, I am still refreshed to see the positive impact long-
term care has on the lives of so many people. From staffs who genuinely enjoy the people they
serve to exhausted families that can now focus on quality time with mom, senior living is a
benefit to many.
Assisted living is a long-term care option preferred by individuals and their families because
of its emphasis on resident choice, dignity, and privacy. There are 35 licensed assisted living
communities in Oklahoma County. They provide apartment style housing with services,
including assistance with bathing, dressing, and medication administration. Some provide
specialized care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
I long ago lost count of assisted living residents I saw blossom with renewed vigor after moving
to their new home. The four things I feel most improve seniors’ wellbeing are nutritious meals,
socialization, medication administration, and exercise.
The majority of assisted living residents are women age 80 or better. Before moving, they
tended to eat easy-to-prepare meals such as frozen dinners or cheese and crackers. Sometimes
medications were skipped, dropped, accidently doubled, or taken inappropriately. The loss of a
beloved spouse had them reeling with insecurity and grief. Social circles and close friendships
were fading away. Family struggled to make time to visit, go on outings, or help with chores.
Muscle tone and balance had deteriorated.
It is amazing to see how a person’s outlook and health improves after a few months of eating
balanced meals, accurately taking medications, and participating in stretching and toning
exercises. But the biggest reward of all is seeing the smile of someone who is surrounded
with peers and new friends as they share a joke or life experience. Widows serve as natural
support groups for each other. Church services and hymn singing is available for those who
want to participate. Meals and snacks are prepared for a variety of diets. Most assisted living
communities offer fun and educational things to do such as shopping excursions, entertainers,
speakers, crafts, games, and parties.
Each month I will discuss assisted living or other senior care topics in this column. Topics
will range from local costs and new laws to fall prevention and caregiving tips. Email me at
email@example.com if there is a particular subject you would like covered.
Joyce Clark is the CEO of Achievis Senior Living Associates. Achievis is a development and
consultant company to a variety of long-term care providers. www.achievisseniorliving.com
Under the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, Medicare will withhold 1% of a hospital’s reimbursement rate for readmissions that take place within 30 days of a discharge and are deemed to be excessive. The initiative takes effect October 1st and will initially focus on 3 conditions: congestive heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia.
This may be a game-changer for assisted living and nursing facility providers who will increasingly have to demonstrate their ability to safely prevent hospital readmissions. Those who do will become preferred partners for Medicare discharges and gain a competitive edge in markets where Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are active (not Oklahoma). As subcontractors to ACOs, assisted living providers may, for the first time, become part of the Medicare revenue stream.
Assisted living communities are responding to the policy change with tools and methods to better manage conditions associated with hospital readmissions. Strategies include installing an electronic medical records system, enhancing staff levels and clinical capabilities, and making renovations to accommodate new services and levels of care.
Some assisted living providers are remodeling to offer short-stay units and 24-hour nursing services in states with regulations allowing high levels of medical care. They are partnering with therapy and home health care companies to provide more medical components. Health care systems are transforming as more people are served in long-term and post-acute care settings instead of a hospital. This pushing of acuity down the continuum of care is likely to become even more pronounced as the government looks for ways to further reduce costs. Home-based services will likely be more used as an alternative to long-term care.
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