Tag Archive for: senior care

Together in a time of need

Coming Together in a Time of Need

When Libby Renshaw, Home Health Registered Nurse at WelbeHealth, visited Jim at his West Hollywood apartment, she became very worried, very fast. It was his first day home after multiple seizures had led to a 17-day hospital stay, followed by a month in a skilled nursing facility. She knew coming together in his time of need was critical.

“As I sat with him, I saw that he had severe tremors in his arms and hands,” says Libby. “His muscles were weak from being bedridden, and I also noticed significant memory impairment.”  

All of this was making even simple activities extremely difficult. The hand tremors were especially concerning because they made it hard for him to eat, and he couldn’t administer the insulin he needed to treat his diabetes.  

Jim had a caregiver on site that day, thanks to the quick work of WelbeHealth’s Home Care Coordinator, Michael. In addition, Jim’s good friend Amir was there and said he could assist. But these were only temporary solutions.  

“Living alone at home seemed unrealistic,” Libby says. She gently told Jim that he might need to go back to the skilled nursing facility, and she could tell that he was devastated.  

“He desperately wanted to be at home,” she recalls. “After I left his apartment, I got on a conference call with the care team. We all agreed that we would do everything possible to keep him living at home.” 

After the call, each WelbeHealth team member got to work on their part of the plan. When Libby returned to the apartment the next day, she was amazed by what she saw.  

Physical Changes All-Around 

WelbeHealth team including a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and a dietitian. They came together during Jim's time of need.
Care Team Members

WelbeHealth Occupational Therapist, Christine Gaw, had set up many solutions to make daily tasks easier for Jim.  

That day, he received a new bed rail to get out of bed more easily, and a bedside commode to avoid walking to the bathroom at night. Christine also installed a toilet riser and a shower bench to make the bathroom safer and more usable.  

She brought in a chair cushion, both for comfort and to prevent pressure ulcers, and she arranged for a recliner chair to help Jim transition from sitting to standing.  

Christine had also hunted down adaptive shoelaces—a big deal because Jim kept mentioning that he could no longer tie his shoes. 

Fitness and Food  

The apartment was humming with other team members, as well. Pam, Jim’s assigned Physical Therapist, was teaching Jim and his friend Amir a home exercise and walking program.  

Claire, Jim’s Dietitian, talked to Amir about good food for Jim. She provided ideas and recipes that tracked Jim’s preferences and would also help him manage his chronic conditions.  

Claire and Amir also talked about monitoring blood glucose levels and keeping a log to share with the dietary and medical teams. Claire noted that, in addition to using insulin, Jim could help keep his diabetes in check through his diet. 

Managing Medication  

On the medical side, Jim’s Primary Care Provider Lauren, with help from Registered Nurse Case Manager Jennifer, simplified Jim’s diabetes medications. He went from five insulin injections per day to one.   

Lauren also started Jim on medication to help reduce the tremors. She also educated both Jim and Amir on the side effects of Jim’s new seizure medication and answered all their questions.  

One Request Makes a Big Change 

Even with all these improvements, Jim and the WelbeHealth team were still concerned about whether he could safely navigate through his home, prepare his meals, and remember to take his medication. He clearly needed regular and consistent home care.  

WelbeHealth could arrange for this, but then Amir offered an even better solution; he could move in and care for Jim. Everyone agreed this was a great idea, but there was one problem. Because Jim was in Section 8 housing, strict rules applied. He could have no extra occupants and was concerned about losing his apartment since he didn’t want to violate the rules. 

WelbeHealth Social Worker, Twyla, delivered a solution by requesting a ‘reasonable accommodation’ through Section 8. With this change, a caregiver would be allowed to live in the apartment with Jim. 

Ongoing Support  

Today, WelbeHealth’s Physical Therapist continues to visit and work on conditioning and balance. And the Home Care Coordinator arranges caregiving support to support Amir and Jim. Other team members are available to help whenever needed and answer questions. 

Libby saw Jim recently and was heartened to see he was doing well. “He looked so good, and he was practically walking independently,” she says.  

Ultimately, Libby says, the experience showed her that the people at WelbeHealth don’t hesitate to go above and beyond for their participants.  

“This really is the embodiment of our values,” she says. “It is Courage to Love, Pioneering Spirit, and Shared Intention—all coming together. We provided what this vulnerable senior needed to ‘unlock his full potential’ and live independently in his community. It is a beautiful sight to see.” 

Activities for seniors

Engaging Activities for Seniors of All Ability Levels

For many older adults, staying active is a priority. Keeping up with friends, exercising, and giving back to the community brings fulfillment and joy. WelbeHealth helps facilitate meaningful physical and mental activities for seniors of all abilities.

“At WelbeHealth, activities for are adaptable to any level of ability. We find ways for every participant to engage,” says Esther De Santiago, Engagement Supervisor, Adult Engagement and Activities in Stockton. “These activities are done in a group setting. It is wonderful how the other participants cheer each other on.”

Festive Activities for Seniors

Many of our participants’ favorite activities for seniors are related to holidays and other special occasions. Our centers celebrate birthdays monthly, and national holidays are also celebrated, such as Veteran’s Day. This year, one center honored participant Veterans by giving them a certificate and a special pin to wear.

The Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) is a two-day Mexican holiday that reunites the living and the dead. Families create offerings to honor their loved ones who have passed on. Participants and staff at one WelbeHealth center worked together to create an altar to honor their friends and family members who have died. They read poetry to express their emotions and remember their loved ones.

Each Halloween, WelbeHealth staff and participants like to dress up in costumes. You’ll find all kinds of spooky characters at our centers––and Halloween candy, of course!

Thanksgiving is always a special time at WelbeHealth. Our centers serve a special candle-lit meal, display fall decor, and share what they are thankful for. After Thanksgiving, there is always lots of holiday cheer! Festive activities, meals, and decor make our centers cheery and bright all the way through New Year’s Day!

Sprint craft activity
Seniors at WelbeHealth do a craft activity.

Educational Activities

Malcomb Forbes, an American entrepreneur, said “It’s never too late to learn.” At WelbeHealth, we agree! Our activity directors bring in guest speakers to present on interesting topics such as poetry, history, and music. We’ve even had Hawaiian dancers come to share and give a hula performance.

We’ve also found that our very own staff and participants are extremely talented. We sometimes give a participant a little tap on the shoulder and ask if they’d like to present their expertise to the center. One of our participants gave a virtual presentation on her writing and art to her peers. She hopes to present in person eventually. We also had an amazing performance by a participant who is an expert in African dance and belly dancing.

One WelbeHealth staff member is a fire-breather. His performance really “lit up” the expressions of the center staff and participants!

Creative Activities

Many of our participants love to get their creativity flowing. Creative activities for seniors like embroidery, origami, knitting, and crocheting are done at the centers.

“Creative projects are something that people of all ages can engage in,” says De Santiago. “When you finish a project and realize that you created something, it can be very satisfying. Plus, we all have fun sharing ideas and creating together.”

Some participants have given back to the community through creative arts. At one WelbeHealth center, a group of participants crochet and knit clothing items to donate to a local NICU. The babies in the NICU get an article of clothing made with love by WelbeHealth participants, and participants get the fulfillment of serving these precious babies and their families.

Entertaining Activities for Seniors

We have a lot of fun at our day centers. If you ask us, fun includes dancing and singing! Participants of all abilities can engage in singing and some form of dancing. Activity directors always adjust so no one is left out of the merriment!

Thriller by Michael Jackson is a classic spooky tune played around Halloween. The famous “thriller dance” accompanies the 1982 song. At one center, participants and staff learned the Thriller dance,  standing or while seated in a chair. Laughter and cheers were shared by all!

Karaoke is a favorite activity for seniors at WelbeHealth. Many of our participants are vocally gifted and love to belt out a song for their peers. Whether you can carry or tune or not, staff and participants always cheer each other on. Whoever has the microphone is guaranteed to feel supported and celebrated!

Exercise Activities

We know that exercise is good for our bodies. It can be great for our minds too! That’s why WelbeHealth incorporates exercise into the daily list of activity options. For those who want to participate in the exercise activities, there are always modifications that can be made. Participants of all ability levels can take part and benefit from the movement.

Exercise activities done in the WelbeHealth centers include:

  • Chair Zumba: An exciting dance workout usually done alongside Latin-inspired music.
  • Tai Chi: A gentle exercise that promotes balance and stretching.
  • Therabands: Band exercise that provides light resistance to strengthen muscles.
  • Group Dance: Led by rehabilitation therapists, this is a fun, light aerobic exercise.

Supportive Activities for Seniors

WelbeHealth participants make it a point to support one another in times of loss and grief. Our participants are never alone in their pain. Each of our centers has support groups to connect participants and allow them to share their story and encourage one another.

As an example, the Forever Friends support group consists of participants and one WelbeHealth staff facilitator. The purpose of the group is for participants to support their peers as through life transitions.

In addition to support groups, WelbeHealth offers mental health services. Combined, support groups and counseling can provide the mental and emotional support seniors need to navigate loss and grief.

Join in the Fun at WelbeHealth

As you can see, there are a lot of activities for seniors at the WelbeHealth centers. An activities calendar is available to participants and their families, so they can see all that is offered. Our activities directors are open to suggestions too!

Learn more about becoming a WelbeHealth participant.

Trevor Moawad, Getting to Neutral

WelbeHealth’s Approach to Navigating the Pandemic Saves Lives

COVID-19 Hits the U.S.: Re-Prioritize and Plan

As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in March of 2020, WelbeHealth’s CEO, Dr. Si France, and the company’s President, Dr. Matt Patterson, grew increasingly concerned. Information about the virus was still incomplete, but it was clear that WelbeHealth’s population of vulnerable seniors was at high risk from COVID-19. The two leaders spent the weekend of March 14 and 15 creating a plan to help ensure that patients (known as “participants”) and employees would survive the next few months. “We knew that we had to act immediately to save lives, and the best way to do that was to downshift to neutral,” says France.

Over the course of the next few days, the company leaders reevaluated their priorities and replaced them with an intentional focus on a neutral mindset and commitment to the things they could control.

A Neutral Mindset Becomes an Important Tool

WelbeHealth’s successful approach to protecting its employees and participants during the pandemic is featured in the recently released book by Trevor Moawad, “Getting to Neutral.” According to Moawad, many people are alive today, because WelbeHealth’s “dedicated staff took the right next step.”

WelbeHealth’s next steps prioritized the safety of their employees, families, and the seniors in WelbeHealth’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). The organization used the framework of a neutral mindset to navigate the difficult decisions throughout the pandemic: neither being overly optimistic nor falling prey to the trappings of negativity.

Because of WelbeHealth’s neutral approach, leaders were able to respond to the pandemic in a unique way. When pandemic news became overwhelming, the leadership team encouraged team members to manage their intake, and brought just the facts of the pandemic to the staff on a regular basis. This way, the organization could evaluate the changing situation without judgement, and move forward with plans to minimize the impact of the virus on their frail senior population.

France and Patterson led weekly meetings to inform, update, and encourage all employees to adopt a neutral mindset. Staying neutral allowed WelbeHealth employees to focus on what they could control and their 3-part daily checklist:

1. Read the plan of the day.

2. Execute your assignment.

3. Take care of yourself and your family.

Flexibility in Business Model

Because WelbeHealth is led by mission-driven doctors who oversee operations, clinical departments, growth efforts, and more, the team understood what was at stake, and was quick to act when the pandemic arrived. Before the end of March 2020, WelbeHealth became the first PACE organization to launch an emergency response, and shifted to delivering medical care using a home-based model instead of through the facilities. As part of this model, WelbeHealth became the first company of its kind to provide every participant with a mobile tablet device so they could interact with their medical providers, care team, and other program participants.

As soon as vaccines were available, the company became the first, non-hospital-operated PACE to vaccinate its participants as well as team members. The team also partnered with Central Valley and LA counties and volunteered on weekends to organize vaccination clinics and vaccinate 1,900 seniors and frontline workers in WelbeHealth communities.

Knowing that people were one hundred times more likely to die of COVID-19 if they are not vaccinated, the WelbeHealth team went to work educating its participants on the importance of vaccinations. The company mobilized to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to its seniors, reaching a rate of vaccination significantly higher than the population at-large, with over 90% vaccination rate.

Results of Operating from a Neutral Mindset

WelbeHealth’s neutral mindset, flexibility, and focus on vaccinations statistically saved the lives of many of their participants compared to what would normally be seen in this frail population of seniors. With a much lower rate of COVID-19 death rate than skilled nursing facilities, it’s estimated that over 100 seniors are alive today because they enrolled in WelbeHealth’s program.  As the pandemic continues, the number of lives saved by the company’s safety measures continues to grow.

France says, “Each Welbe team member plays a part in making the world a more compassionate, loving place. The legacy of WelbeHealth’s work will reverberate for generations. By helping our participants thrive and live longer, they are able to extend their profound influence to their families and communities.”

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.

Medi-Cal Changes for Seniors, free, on-demand webinar available
Click on graphic above to access our free, on-demand webinar.

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.

National Kidney Month is in March

During National Kidney Month, we recognize how kidneys play an important role in keeping our bodies healthy. In fact, all the blood in our body takes a trip through these bean-shaped organs about 40 times per day!

Below, we’ll dive into what your kidneys do and how to keep them working in tip-top shape. We’ll also touch on chronic kidney disease symptoms and living kidney donors.

What do your kidneys do?

You have two kidneys on either side of your spine, between your ribs and your belly button. They are about the size of an adult fist, and they perform many complex functions to keep the rest of your body feeling well.

Most of us know that kidneys remove waste from our body. But did you know they also make hormones that regulate your blood pressure and red blood cells?

Yup, you can thank your kidneys for:

  • Removing excess fluid and waste from your body
  • Filtering toxins from your blood
  • Regulating the production of your red blood cells
  • Producing essential vitamins
  • Releasing blood pressure-regulating hormones

Over a million tiny filters, called nephrons, make up each of your kidneys. Nephrons work together to filter your blood, remove waste and return necessary nutrients back to your blood. The waste and extra water is what makes up urine.

How to keep your kidneys healthy

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of this organ duo, it’s clear why keeping them healthy is a priority.

Here are some things you can do for your kidney health:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  • Eat nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid eating too much salt or fat
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Stop smoking
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Lose excess weight
  • Stay active
  • If you’re a diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control

Chronic kidney disease

About 1 in 7 adult Americans live with chronic kidney disease. This means their kidneys are damaged and are not functioning properly. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or an immune system disease such as lupus.

The word “chronic” is used because the disease gets worse over time. If you’re at risk for kidney disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse chronic kidney disease, but there are ways to slow the progression, such as lifestyle and diet changes.

Learn about living kidney donors during National Kidney Month

Individuals with chronic kidney disease eventually need dialysis or a kidney transplant. In the U.S, 100,000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant. Healthy people with normal kidney function can become living kidney donors. Our bodies can function normally with just one kidney.

A living kidney donor could donate their organ to someone who needs a functional kidney. This could be a blood relative, spouse, or friend. Kidneys can also be donated to someone anonymously (non-directed donation).

In this National Kidney Month article, we hope you have learned more about your kidneys and how to keep them healthy.

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.”

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.

Seniors sitting on a bench

Depression in Seniors: What Caregivers Should Know

Feeling down is a normal part of life. We all have days we feel sad. But, if your loved ones’ sadness is continuous, they could be suffering from depression.

Depression is not a normal part of aging. Watch for any signs of depression. If your aging loved one shows symptoms, you can help them get the treatment they need to enjoy life again.

What Causes Depression in Seniors?

About 1% to 5% of older adults are depressed. If your loved one requires home care, they’re at an increased risk for depression. For seniors who need home health care or hospitalization, the number rises to 13.5%.

Several factors can lead to depression in seniors. These include:

Death of loved ones. Losing a spouse, child, dear friend, or beloved pet can lead to depression. Grieving a loss is normal, but becoming depressed is not. It is important to recognize the difference between grief and depression.

Health challenges. A chronic medical condition can cause depression in seniors. For example, experiencing constant physical pain or disability can lead to depression, or worsen previously diagnosed depression.

Medication side effects. Multiple medications can sometimes interact with each other and cause depression. Medication is can be processed differently in the elderly because our bodies become less efficient at metabolizing drugs as we age. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you think a medication may be causing depression in your loved one.

Loss of independence and purpose. People find joy and meaning in their work, volunteer activities, and social circles. Your loved one may be deprived of these joys due to a medical condition or a loss of community.

Symptoms of Depression in Seniors

Identifying depression in seniors begins with knowing the common signs and symptoms. These can include:

  • Disregarding personal care and hygiene
  • Frequent thoughts of death and suicide
  • Increased aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Disinterest in hobbies and socialization
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Reduced motivation and energy
  • Insomnia
  • Constant sadness and despair
  • Difficulty focusing

Rona Lomeda is a Complex Case Nurse for the seniors in WelbeHealth’s PACE services. During her 30 years of experience in behavioral health and senior care, she’s become familiar with the red flags of depression in seniors.

“If a senior lives alone and is constantly feeling sad or hopeless, those are some early signs of depression,” she said.

Types of Depression Experienced by Older Adults

Several types of depression may affect seniors. These forms of depression are slightly different, but all are treatable with the help of a medical and mental health professional.

Major Depressive Disorder: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Your loved one may experience a depressed mood every day for 14 days or longer. MDD may be a single episode, or it may reoccur.

Persistent Depressive Disorder: Also called dysthymia, this is a long-term depressed mood. It may last for at least two years. The severity of the depression may lessen at times, but your loved one will exhibit a chronically depressed mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: During the fall and winter months, there is less daylight, and we don’t get out as much due to the cold. As a result, seniors may experience depression during this season.

Treatment for a Senior with Depression

Getting treatment for a senior with depression can help them get back to enjoying life and prevent the worsening of symptoms. Untreated depression has is linked to chronic heart failure in the elderly, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

“Depression can become worse if it is left untreated,” said Lomeda. “Getting seniors the support they need can make all the difference.”

Speaking with your loved one and their doctor about your concerns can be an initial step to getting treatment. From there, the physician can diagnose the condition and provide appropriate treatment.

Typical treatment for a senior with depression can include speaking with a licensed mental health professional. This can help your loved one work through challenging thoughts and emotions. The professional can also give your loved one tools to manage their depression. In addition, a physician or psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressant medication. These medicines work by balancing hormones in the brain that affect mood.

 

Resources: https://porch.com/advice/senior-safe-home

 

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.