long term care

Patient Care

Putting Patients First in Long-Term Care

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long term care

(As vice president of Long-Term Care Solutions for Xerox Government Healthcare Solutions and former Medicaid director and deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, Frank Spinelli’s more than 30 years of healthcare experience make him an expert on one of the industry’s most pressing issues: long-term care. Last month he sat down with HealthBiz Decoded for a Q and A about the future of long-term care. This month, he lays out three key steps in moving patients to the center of care. The commentary below was first published May 28, 2013 at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.)

More than 10 million Americans require long-term care services, and that number is increasing as medical technology advances and baby boomers get older. In fact, 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day – in 15 years, 10,000 people will be turning 80 every day, and they will likely need some kind of care.

People who require long-term care face many challenges – they have appointments with multiple doctors, have to fill and monitor various prescriptions and may have cognitive or functional decompensation. But what happens when people have difficulty getting to appointments or following prescription instructions? Without a strong support network, long-term care patients can experience feelings of depression, withdrawal and isolation from the communities that can actually help them the most.

Let’s not forget about caregivers, especially family members. On average, a caregiver spends nearly 40 hours a week caring for a loved one – a full-time job in and of itself. Not to mention the time it takes to identify and manage trustworthy support from a source outside the family circle.

So, how can long-term care providers make real improvements in the care delivered to those in need? It’s important for providers to put participants and their families front and center, rather than focusing on care settings, providers and programs. That way, providers will have a full picture – not a siloed outlook – of each participant. Three key ideas come to mind when talking about strengthening long-term services and support programs focused on participants:

Independence: Allow participants to establish a level of independence in decision-making to help maintain their well-being. Studies show that more engaged participants have better quality outcomes. By fully engaging participants, providers can better understand what they need to develop a customized service plan.

Inclusion: Create an environment where participants are more connected to their circle of support, including caregivers, family, friends, providers or anyone connected to the participant’s health. The goal of this is to help participants stay in their communities as long as possible.

Integration: A participant’s support circle must work together to integrate medical, functional, behavioral and social needs into daily life. This can happen only once independence and inclusion are achieved.

By focusing on the needs of the participants throughout their life-cycle, regardless of their service setting, and ensuring that all necessary parties are engaged, more effective care is delivered and there is less risk for everyone involved.