Tag Archive for: program of all-inclusive care for the elderly

Happy senior

Medi-Cal Changes for Seniors: Free, On-Demand Webinar

WelbeHealth has a new, on-demand webinar for seniors, caregivers, and others to learn about the expanded Medi-Cal eligibility criteria in 2022. These changes will allow more people to access Medi-Cal coverage, and some seniors could become newly eligible for WelbeHealth or other PACE programs.

To watch our webinar, click on the graphic below, or visit welbehealth.com/medi-cal for English, or welbehealth.com/seminarioweb for Spanish.

Could you now be eligible for PACE?

WelbeHealth’s PACE provides all-inclusive coordinated care. For some California seniors, the Medi-Cal changes may mean you become newly eligible for PACE programs such as WelbeHealth.

You may have questions about the expanded Medi-Cal services and health coverage. WelbeHealth has experts to help you learn if you may qualify for Medi-Cal and WelbeHealth’s PACE services. Call us at (888) 530-4415, TTY (800) 735-2922 to learn more.

Elder Fraud: How to Protect Yourself

The FBI estimates that American seniors lose $3 billion a year to elder fraud. Unfortunately, scammers often target seniors because they can be trusting and may have built up a healthy savings account over their lifetime.

Being aware of scams targeting seniors can help you protect yourself. It’s important to recognize the common tactics used in elder fraud so you know if it is happening to you or a loved one before it is too late.

What is Elder Fraud?

Elder fraud is any fraud that targets older adults. Scammers may target seniors by phone call, text message, email, or mail.

For victims, the financial impact of elder fraud can be devastating. The average victim of elder fraud loses around $34,000. Not only does it take a toll financially, but being a victim of fraud can hurt your mental and emotional health too.

Common Scams that Target Seniors

During the pandemic, there has been an increase in scams targeting seniors. As older adults spent more time online to connect with friends and family, fraudsters targeted seniors through emails and other online avenues.

Here are some of the top scams targeting seniors.

  • Romance Fraud
    The criminal targets widows and single elders, earning their trust. Eventually, the scammer asks for small sums of money and then larger.
  • Fake Grandchild
    Scammers will call a senior and say something like, “Hi Grandma, it’s your favorite grandchild.” Then they ask for money for rent, a car repair, or similar.
  • Charity Scams
    Using a fake charity name, criminals ask seniors to donate to a charity that supports a good cause. Online fund-raising pages can also be fraudulent.
  • Government Impersonation
    Criminals claim they work for the government and tell elders they’ll be prosecuted or fined if they do not comply with their request.
  • Tech Support Schemes
    A pop-up appears on the computer screen and says to call a number to resolve a computer issue. When the senior calls, the scammer poses as a tech support representative. They pretend to “fix” the computer remotely while gaining access to sensitive information and asking for payment in return.
  • Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
    Criminals call or email claiming that the designated senior has won a prize. They say that an initial payment needs to be made by the individual to gain access to the prize.
  • Phishing Emails
    Phishing emails may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. Scammers disguise themselves to gain access to your passwords, bank account numbers, and other sensitive information.
  • Widow Schemes
    Scammers will call a surviving spouse after losing a husband or wife. They claim to work for a financial institution associated with the deceased spouse and claim they need money to pay for fees, overdue bills, etc.

How to Avoid Being a Victim of Elder Fraud

Scammers are always creating new tactics and avenues to target seniors. Here are steps you can take to stay on guard and protect yourself.

Hang Up and Call Back

Scammers often disguise themselves as a business or organization you’re familiar with. They may even disguise their number, so it looks like you’re receiving a call from a local area code. If you receive a call from a person claiming to be from your bank, the Social Security Office, or a particular charity, and they ask for personal information, hang up.

Then, find your most recent bank statement or the official phone number online and call back. This ensures that you speak with the legitimate organization or business.

Be Careful of Links and Attachments

Even if you know and trust the individual who sends you a link via email, social media, or text message, be cautious before clicking on it. You may want to call your friend or family member to verify that they sent you the link. Clicking on suspicious links can lead to viruses or spyware being downloaded to your device–something you want to avoid.

Be Aware of Acquaintances

Sadly, scammers aren’t always strangers. Be cautious when lending money to friends or family members with addiction issues, financial difficulties, or a history of criminal activity.

Reporting Elder Fraud and Scams

If you think you may be a victim of elder fraud, reach out to someone you trust. Don’t feel embarrassed. It’s important to address the issue before it becomes worse.

You can also report the scam to the local police, file an internet crime complaint, or call your local FBI office. Reporting the crime is the first step in getting the scam shut down so other seniors won’t be defrauded.

Lisa Gildea, dental hygienist, and Florentino

Dental Care Helps Seniors and Their Family Caregivers

At WelbeHealth, health care and dental care are integrated and coordinated. Once a medical provider does an initial assessment of a senior entering our program, the senior sees our dental team for preventive dental care and any necessary dental treatments.

Lisa Gildea, an RDHAP (Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice) at WelbeHealth, has made a difference in the lives of many seniors including Florentino, age 92, and his adult daughter and caregiver, Patricia.

A Caregiver’s Experience

Patricia has been delighted with the services WelbeHealth provides for her father, Florentino, especially the dental services and the in-home support they receive from Home Instead Agency—all provided through the WelbeHealth program. Patricia says, “The regular assistance with quality care from WelbeHealth and the Home Instead Caregivers allows me to continue working my full-time career, while still taking care of my father and my home. I cannot emphasize enough how much peace of mind this generates. If I can pull it off, anyone can. Just don’t give up.”

Patricia says, “Lisa Gildea has been extraordinary with my father. I have never experienced dental customer service like Lisa provides through the PACE program. Lisa spends significant time with me on the phone both before and after each of my father’s dental appointments. She assesses his situation, provides me with the supplies we need for his dental care, and answers all my questions.”

For Patricia, whose father still has a beautiful full set of teeth, it is important to help maintain his teeth now that he can’t do it for himself. Patricia says, “My father spent a lifetime taking care of his teeth, and now it is my turn to help keep them in good condition. As a caregiver, it is important to stay optimistic and tenacious. We have to persevere in finding ways to advocate and take care of ourselves and the elderly in our family and community.”

Patricia continues, “WelbeHealth sets up all his appointments, provides Lisa for his dental care, and picks him up for his appointments. They don’t give up on their geriatric patients. My father really responds to Lisa. She is creative with how she cleans his teeth, is kind, nurturing, and he picks up on that.”

Lisa Gildea and Florentino in a WelbeHealth center

Lisa Gildea and Florentino in a WelbeHeath center

Medical and Dental, all Under One Roof

Lisa Gildea talks about WelbeHealth’s integrated medical and dental services to seniors at community presentations in the Stockton and Modesto areas of California.

The presentations cover the services that WelbeHealth provides to qualifying seniors, with a special focus on its dental services. In each presentation, Gildea provides supplies for tooth brushing and flossing, and dental education such as diet, how to brush teeth and how to floss.

Table with supplies and educational materials at outreach event

Supplies and education for seniors at an outreach event

Gildea explains to senior groups that a WelbeHealth dentist typically handles the first dental visit. The dentist takes a set of x-rays, does an exam, and then explains the cleaning needs and treatment plan to the dental hygienist.

Gildea says, “I do an assessment, a cleaning, fluoride treatment, and put each senior on a routine maintenance and preventative care plan.” She adds, “At WelbeHealth, our goal is to keep seniors as healthy as possible while living in their own homes and communities.”

Gildea says there are advantages to having medical and dental all under one roof. “I can quickly talk to other providers if the senior needs a prescription, for example. Everybody understands what the senior needs—that’s part of the all-inclusive nature of the service.”

WelbeHealth transportation brings seniors to the day center for their appointments. Gildea says, “Many seniors don’t have their own transportation, so it is all pre-arranged according to their needs. If a senior comes in for a cleaning, they can also go to other appointments at the center that day, such as a routine medical check-up, lab work, or physical therapy. This minimizes the number of trips and separate appointments needed.”

Lisa Gildea at community outreach event

Lisa Gildea educates seniors at community outreach events.

The Importance of a Healthy Smile

A healthy smile can boost seniors’ confidence, keep them eating nutritious foods, and promote good health. Gildea says, “Many seniors have worked an entire lifetime and haven’t had access to dental care. I love providing seniors access to dental care to bridge that gap. At WelbeHealth, I have the flexibility to do what is best for the individual.”

Gildea continues, “Helping a senior go from poor oral health to good oral health is very rewarding. And it makes my job feel so much bigger than just doing dental cleanings. I teach seniors about the importance of good daily dental habits and routine dental care. The results are incredible and valuable because our general health is connected to our oral health.”

Gildea says she also enjoys helping seniors go from feeling nervous or fearful about their dental hygiene visit to being comfortable and excited about their visits.

COVID-19 Considerations

With COVID-19 still active in our communities, seniors are often concerned about safety. Gildea says, “WelbeHealth is very cautious about COVID-19, and has good safety measures in place. The pandemic also highlights a growing need to see seniors at home. When needed, I can visit seniors safely where they live.” Gildea takes a portable dental unit to home appointments with all the comforts of the dental office, and she has mobile X-ray equipment.

Gildea says, “Some seniors are in memory care and cannot get to the dental suite, so going to them can be the best option for their dental care.”

Comprehensive Care

WelbeHealth is unique, as it serves as both the payor and the provider. There are no outside restrictions on services such as dentures, extractions, crowns, or fillings. The dental hygienist can do deep cleanings and create maintenance schedules that fit the individual’s needs.  The dentist and dental hygienist collaborate and share information to create a treatment plan that best accommodates the patient.

Seniors enjoy the benefits of personalized and coordinated medical and dental care and have access to activities and socialization along with meals at the center. Depending on the need, Gildea will see between four and six seniors in a typical day. Gildea says, “WelbeHealth allows me to take my time with each senior, and to see them as often as I feel is necessary. This setting gives me the freedom to make decisions based on what is best for the individual.”

Medi-cal changes for California seniors

Medi-Cal Changes for California Seniors

New and expanded Medi-Cal eligiblity criteria in 2022 will allow more people to access Medi-Cal coverage. Medi-Cal changes for California seniors offer many a new chance to qualify for Medi-Cal. Read on to learn more about these changes, which for some seniors could include becoming eligible for WelbeHealth or other PACE programs in your area.

For more detailed information, see the resources listed at the bottom of the article.

  • Expanded Coverage for Undocumented Seniors
    Beginning in May 2022, Medi-Cal benefits will be provided to all individuals over the age of 50 who meet financial eligibility requirements, regardless of immigration status. This includes primary, specialty, behavioral health, long-term care, and much more. Those not currently enrolled in restricted scope Medi-Cal will need to apply to find out if they meet eligibility requirements.
  • Increased Asset Limits
    In July of 2022, the asset limit will increase for many Medi-Cal programs from $2,000 to $130,000 for individuals (plus $65,000 for each additional family member). Once this change is in effect, DHCS will send letters to those who were denied Medi-Cal or terminated coverage for being over the asset limit during the 90 days before the effective date of the change.

How this may affect you: If you were previously denied Medi-Cal enrollment due to immigration status or assets, you may want to consider re-applying.

 

Changes to Medi-Cal Managed Care in 2022 and 2023

The California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) initiative standardizes managed care enrollment and benefits, addresses social determinants of health, and reduces inequities. As part of the CalAIM initiative, some health coverage changes will impact Medi-Cal enrollees across all of California. Other changes only impact certain populations or enrollees in certain counties.

How this may affect you: The way you receive Medi-Cal benefits through your managed care plan may be changing, including the health plan you are enrolled in or the services available through your current Medi-Cal managed care plan.

  • Changes for Dual-eligible, Medi-Cal and Medicare Individuals
    Starting January 2023, dual-eligible individuals will be required to enroll in a Medi-Cal managed care plan. If you are eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal, you will receive enrollment forms to choose the plan you want to enroll in. PACE programs such as WelbeHealth will be listed as an option on these enrollment forms. This is a great time to consider participating in WelbeHealth’s PACE services if you are eligible and live in one of our service areas.
  • Changes for those with a Medi-Cal share of cost
    As part of CalAIM, some Medi-Cal beneficiaries* with a share of cost are moving out of managed care, into fee-for-service Medi-Cal. If you have been on a Medi-Cal plan that has a share of cost, you will automatically be enrolled in fee-for-service Medi-Cal unless you live in a long-term care facility. This change affects those enrolled in both Medi-Cal and Medicare and those enrolled in Medi-Cal only.If you were previously enrolled in a Cal MediConnect plan, you will be disenrolled from Cal MediConnect. You will need to select a new Part D prescription plan to cover prescription drugs.Note that under fee-for-service Medi-Cal, there may be some changes to how transportation is made available to you. DHCS’s Transportation Services web page provides instructions on how you can get transportation under fee-for-service.
  • Managed Care Enrollment for Certain Populations
    Certain population groups who are required to enroll in a Medi-Cal managed care plan are expanding statewide. If you are part of one of these special groups, you would have received two notices in the Fall of 2021. You can make a managed care selection or be added to a state-selected managed care plan.
  • End of MediConnect Plans in December
    As of December 31, 2022, if you are enrolled in a Cal MediConnect plan, you will automatically move to a dual special needs plans operated by the parent organization of your Cal MediConnect plan. If you have questions or would like to select a different health plan (including PACE), contact the Health Consumer Alliance (HCA) at 1-888-804-3536. The HCA can assist Californians who are trying to get or keep their health coverage.

 

Could you now be eligible for PACE?

WelbeHealth’s PACE provides all-inclusive coordinated care. Visit welbehealth.com for information about our services.

You may have questions about these Medi-Cal changes for California seniors. At WelbeHealth we have experts available to assist you in evaluating whether you qualify for Medi-Cal. Call us at (888) 530-4415, TTY (800) 735-2922 to learn more.

 

References and Resources:

*Some changes only affect individuals residing in a CCI county (Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Riverside, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Clara, and San Mateo) or a COHS county (Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity, Ventura, and Yolo).

Nurse coordinator

Care Coordination for Seniors

Seniors with complex medical conditions often need help managing their care. They see multiple doctors and specialists. They’re taking multiple medications, have several medical appointments a month, and may need assistance in their home. Professional care coordination for seniors can help manage a senior’s health care.

Research shows that 35 percent of those over age 65 have no one assisting them with coordinating their care. Thirty-four percent say a family member coordinates their care.

Care coordination can be beneficial for seniors and caregivers, especially for the 85 percent of older adults who live with one or more complex medical conditions.

What is care coordination?

Seniors, or their spouse or adult child, often do the work of coordinating their care. They make appointments, provide transportation, communicate with physicians, and assist in the home.

Professional care coordination for seniors is more in-depth and comprehensive. It involves multiple medical experts who specialize in the health of the elderly. The team helps the senior meet their medical needs, provides the needed resources, and updates the care team. Care coordination is personalized and uses the input of the patient and caregiver.

The benefits of care coordination for seniors and their families

  • Doctors stay informed. Living with a complex medical condition often means having more than one doctor who provides your care. One goal of care coordination is to keep all healthcare providers informed. This saves the patient from redundant testing, screening, and treatment. Changes in medication, new or worsening symptoms, and changes in medical history are all topics to be shared among your team of physicians.
  • Better healthcare outcomes. Studies have shown that professional care coordination results in better health outcomes. Patients are often more satisfied with the quality of care because it is personalized and streamlined.
  • Social and emotional needs met. Care coordination focuses on the patient’s physical, social and emotional health. Healthcare professionals connect the patient to resources such as counseling and support groups and promote wellness of the mind.
  • Relief for caregivers. Family members often take on coordinating care for their aging loved one. As their loved one’s condition grows more complex, it can be a lot to manage. Professional care coordination for seniors relieves caregivers of doing this, while keeping them informed. Therefore, they have more time to work, rest, or tend to their own health needs.

WelbeHealth provides care coordination for seniors with complex medical conditions.

WelbeHealth’s program of all-inclusive care for the elderly (PACE)  provides professional coordinated care to seniors.

Interdisciplinary Team

At the heart of WelbeHealth’s PACE is the interdisciplinary team. This team stays current on each senior in their care, and adjusts care as needed. Each team member specializes in caring for seniors with complex medical conditions. The team includes specialists such as:

  • Primary care physician
  • Nurse
  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Recreation therapist
  • Dietician
  • Social worker
  • Home care coordinator
  • Transportation professional

Day Center

WelbeHealth’s day centers make providing coordinated care seamless. In the day center, seniors can get many physical needs met and socialize with other participants. Under one roof, participants can receive:

  • Primary care
  • Dental, vision, and hearing care
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Nutritious meals and socializing with other seniors and staff
  • Exercise
  • Personal care (bathing, grooming, etc.)

Telehealth and Home Care

Professional care coordination for seniors often involves home care. Seniors sometimes need help with housekeeping and personal care. WelbeHealth coordinates that care when it is medically necessary.

Telehealth can help keep seniors connected with healthcare professionals 24/7. This accessibility can help give peace of mind to seniors and their caregivers.

Coordinated Care is Impactful for Seniors.

Coordinated care is impactful for seniors with complex medical conditions. WelbeHealth provides personalized, coordinated care, keeping seniors living well, at home.

Caregiving for elders

Costs of Caring for an Aging Loved One

Many adult children care for a parent in their golden years. Some are surprised by the costs of caring for an aging loved one. Family caregivers spend an annual average of $7,400 of their own money on caregiving expenses. In combination with a possible loss of income due to time away from work, it can sometimes be a financial strain for families.

Here are three steps you can take to reduce out-of-pocket caregiving expenses and recover some financial costs.

1.  Create a budget and track expenses.

Caring for an elderly loved one includes many expenses that you may not think of. Keep track of these expenses. After a few months, you can better predict what your caregiving expenses will be and adjust your budget accordingly. If you have siblings or other loved ones who may share the caregiving costs with you, it is a useful tool to split costs evenly. If you haven’t already, consider asking your loved ones for help with these caregiving expenses.

Possible Recurring Caregiving Expenses Possible One-time Caregiving Expenses
·         Groceries

·         Medical co-payments

·         Travel to and from doctor’s appointments

·         Incontinence supplies

·         Clothing

·         In-home professional care

·         Housekeeping

·         Mortgage

·         Home modification (railings, shower seat, etc.)

·         Medical alert system

·         Vehicle modifications

2.  Research tax implications of caregiving.

Understanding IRS guidelines for caregiver and senior filing can save you money and help you recoup some of your caregiving costs. If you meet these seven requirements outlined by the IRS, you may be able to claim an elderly parent as a dependent on your tax return. You may also be able to deduct medical expenses and home modification costs up to a certain amount. If you’re not sure about IRS rules and guidelines, talk to a tax professional to make sure you qualify for these benefits.

3.  Consider professional support.

For caregivers who want to keep their loved one at home, participating in a local Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) can provide professional medical care and significantly reduce the costs of caring for an aging loved one.

PACE provides eligible seniors the following services, typically at no added cost:

  • Preventive care and routine screenings
  • Dental and vision care
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Medical supplies, home safety modifications, and much more

PACE participants have a team of health care professionals that work to develop a customized care plan for each individual.

To learn more about WelbeHealth’s PACE services, visit welbehealth.com.

WelbeHealth Celebrates National PACE Month

September is National PACE Month, celebrating the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). WelbeHealth’s innovative PACE model helps California’s frailest seniors live in their homes as long as possible. More than 95 percent of participants enrolled in the PACE program live outside of a nursing home.

“This year, we celebrate National PACE Month as we work to recover from the historic COVID-19 pandemic, which provides us a unique perspective to celebrate the original development of the PACE model of care and envision a future where every American will have access to PACE,” says Shawn Bloom, president and CEO of the National PACE Association (NPA).

Did you know? The incidence of PACE participants contracting or dying from COVID-19 was one-third the rate of nursing home residents.

PACE: A History of Innovative Senior Care in California

There are currently 140 PACE organizations in 30 states. The organizations serve more than 55,000 seniors. Before PACE grew to what it is today, it started in California. The program began in San Francisco in 1971 as a unique way to care for elderly with chronic conditions and to help them maintain independence, dignity, and quality of life in their communities.

PACE has a proven history of providing excellent senior care, while allowing individuals to live safely in the homes and communities they know and love. On average, PACE participants are 76 years old and live with multiple medical conditions. Around 46 percent have some form of dementia.

Fun Fact: In California, 65 PACE centers and alternative care settings care for over 13,000 seniors in 22 counties.

Tapping PACE’s Potential

California’s senior population is growing faster than any other age group. By 2030, 25 percent of Californians will be 60 or older. Senior care must evolve to meet the challenges of caring for the older population. PACE is a critical part of the solution.

“Now the time is right to demand more from our long-term care delivery system. PACE is ready to help every community meet that challenge,” says Bloom.

PACE provides home care, prescription drugs, transportation, meals, therapies, and any other services seniors need to remain safely in their homes. This comprehensive care is preventive in nature and results in better health outcomes for participants.

The PACE model is a critical part of keeping seniors independent and out of the hospital. About 92 percent of seniors enrolled in the program are very satisfied with the care provided by PACE. Additionally, 97 percent of caregivers would recommend PACE.

More Accessible Senior Care

Nearly 90 percent of Californians want access to services that help them live at home in their communities as they age. But, non-white and lower-income Americans report less access to local services that would help them do so. PACE can meet the needs of a diverse aging population, including lower-income seniors and individuals of color. In California, 80 percent of PACE program participants are from communities of color.

Seniors sitting on a bench

Supporting the Mental Health of Seniors

Health care doesn’t just include care for the physical body; it includes care for the mind too. Solely focusing on physical health and disregarding the mental health of seniors can reduce their quality of life. WelbeHealth recognizes this. As a PACE provider (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), WelbeHealth addresses all aspects of wellness to keep seniors living safely in their community.

An estimated 20 percent of Americans over age 55 have a mental health disorder. Unfortunately, only three percent of those individuals seek out mental health services. WelbeHealth supports the mental health of seniors through a collaborative, gentle approach to improve well-being and health outcomes.

1.   Building Trust

Rona Lomeda is a Complex Case Nurse for WelbeHealth. Her 30 years of experience in behavioral health and geriatric care have shown her the key to successfully treating the mental health of seniors is trust.

Lomeda says, “The most important thing we do is make sure our seniors feel loved. That’s what develops trust in the relationship. Ultimately, that’s how we provide the best care to seniors struggling with mental illnesses.”

WelbeHealth also builds trust by being available 24/7. Whether participants are at the day center, in their home, or on the road, WelbeHealth is just a call away. Staying in close communication with seniors lets them know that they always have someone they can lean on in times of fear, confusion, or loneliness.

2.   Nurturing Companionship Among Peers

Over 40 percent of seniors report feeling lonely on a daily basis. And, studies have shown that loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s why WelbeHealth helps provide companionship for all participants, especially those with mental illness.

WelbeHealth participants find companionship through:

  • Coming to the day center
  • Eating meals with other participants
  • Engaging in center activities that interest them
  • Visiting with caring staff members
  • Calling the WelbeHealth team via phone or tablet
  • Visiting with drivers and other participants during transportation rides

3.   Providing Individual Care and Education

Untreated mental illness can have a domino effect on other areas of health. For example, a senior who is severely depressed may not feel like taking their diabetes medication, which can harm other areas of their body.

To help solve this, WelbeHealth provides individualized care and education.

Lomeda says, “If a patient has trouble taking daily pills, we consider administering their medicine through injection once a week. These kinds of adjustments can make all the difference in the health of the participant. Once we have trust built, we can educate them on the importance of taking their medication and find the best ways to administer it for them.”

Professional therapists are also available to support the mental health of seniors at WelbeHealth. Therapy sessions are done in person or via telemedicine when needed. Visiting with a therapist regularly can help older adults work through feelings of grief, accept a challenging health diagnosis, and support them in overcoming anxious thoughts and feelings.

“We try to connect seniors to therapy instead of prescribing medication right away,” says Lomeda.

4.   Giving Relief to Caregivers

Some WelbeHealth participants live alone. Others live with a caregiver, such as a spouse or adult child. Being a caregiver can be exhausting, especially if your loved one has a mental illness. WelbeHealth makes it a priority to provide support to caregivers, so they can best care for their loved one.

Caregivers of WelbeHealth participants benefit from:

  • Respite care
  • Education
  • Transportation for their loved one
  • Support groups
  • Home care assistance

Supporting the mental health of seniors is just one way WelbeHealth helps older adults and their families. WelbeHealth provides primary care, physical and occupational therapy, dental care, vision care, and more. Visit our FAQ page or contact us for further information.

mHealthIntelligence: California Provider Sees Telehealth as an Integral Part of PACE Programs

WelbeHealth President Matt Patterson says COVID-19 has taught the industry a good lesson on how to use telehealth, and it should be a permanent part of the senior care service.

By Eric Wicklund

 – A California-based healthcare provider is integrating telehealth into its PACE programs, saying the connected health platform improves its ability to provide value-based care for seniors in their own homes.

While the focus of PACE programs has been on in-person care, the coronavirus pandemic prompted many to shift to connected health to maintain contact with their patients. For WelbeHealth, that meant partnering with Grandpad to equip patients with senior-friendly mHealth tablets that allow them to connect with caregivers on-demand and access health and wellness resources online.

“COVID-19 introduced the need for us to pivot to telehealth,” says WelbeHealth President Matt Patterson. “And in the process, we have saved lives.”

WelbeHealth is one of hundreds of providers focused on the senior care market, many of which participate in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program. Developed by CMS roughly 30 years ago as a capitated model of care for dual-eligible beneficiaries (ninety percent are dual-eligible), it provides all necessary medical care, therapies, long-term care and services, meals, socialization, transportation, day center services, and activities.

There are currently 135 PACE programs in 31 states, enrolling between 50 and 3,000 patients, for a total of more than 54,000 seniors served. The programs are based in a care center and feature an interdisciplinary care team (IDT) of primary care physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, dieticians, home care professionals, and others and offers a variety of services on-site and in the home.

PACE programs have traditionally shied away from telehealth, but COVID-19 changed that line of thinking. Now Patterson and his team are at the forefront of a new wave of care providers who want to make telehealth an integral part of the program.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to extend the reach of PACE (and) do more to improve and enrich the lives of our participants,” says Patterson, a former naval surgeon who served as president of digital health pioneer AirStrip before moving into the senior care space.

Telehealth gives PACE programs with WelbeHealth’s the ability to be there for seniors at any time, and to address issues that might not be addressed during in-person visits. That’s important at a time when, mostly due to COVID-19 restrictions, seniors are experiencing high rates of depression, anxiety, stress and substance abuse.

That point has been proven in the Grandpad project. According to a case study, seniors in the WelbeHealth program logged nearly 34,000 hours on the tablets – using both synchronous and asynchronous services – between March of 2020 and March of 2021, including more than 1,500 hours accessing mental health treatment. They also used the tablets to access medical care and exercises aimed at treating cognitive decline.

Patterson says emergency measures adopted by both state and federal governments during the COVID-19 public health emergency have enabled PACE programs to use telehealth more freely. He and his company have been lobbying state officials to make those freedoms permanent.

On the federal level, a bill introduced in March and now before Congress would ensure permanent coverage for audio-only telehealth services for Medicare Advantage and PACE programs, giving providers like WelbeHealth the freedom to incorporate phone calls and non-video telehealth platforms into care plans.

The benefits of connected care are numerous. On-demand access to care providers means seniors can go about their day knowing there’s someone always available should an emergency occur. They have instant access to health and wellness resources that go beyond what they’re getting when the nurse comes by for a visit. They can also collaborate more often on medication management, keep track of daily vital signs, or just talk to someone if they’re lonely or depressed.

Patterson says the pandemic is giving WelbeHealth and others the time to prove the value of connected health and to gather data and experiences to support permanent coverage.

That will be important. CMS has traditionally been very reluctant to expand telehealth coverage and has long argued that it needs evidence that these tools and platforms improve clinical outcomes and reduce wasteful expenses and unnecessary treatments. In short, they want proof.

“PACE is an ideal model for integrating high-touch and virtual care,” Patterson counters. And he wants to do more of that.

“Telehealth is definitely not a replacement (for in-person care), but it gives us more tools, and we want to use these tools for what our participants desire,” he says. “As an organization, we only do well when our participants do well. And they’re doing well.”

 

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Why We Support California Assembly Bill (AB) 523: Because Lifting Regulatory Bottlenecks Saved Lives During Covid-19 Crisis