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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.

UC Berkeley Study Reveals WelbeHealth’s Rapid Adaptation To COVID-19 Eldercare Yielded Exceptional Results And Saved Lives

As policy momentum grows toward home and community-based services, study recommends that policy choices focus on the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), and it’s 45-year track record of success in serving the most complex elderly patients.

SILICON VALLEY, Calif., July 14, 2021 — A new study from UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE) features WelbeHealth in a case study illustrating how this California eldercare PACE provider responded early and decisively to the COVID-19 crisis with exceptional results.

“By rapidly transforming its care model, WelbeHealth had exceptional results: as COVID-19 cases rose across the country — and in particular within nursing home populations — WelbeHealth did not have a single COVID-19 death during the first 8 months of the pandemic. The first WelbeHealth loss from COVID-19 occurred on November 21, 2020 and 10 WelbeHealth participants died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.”

-UC Berkeley

READ THE STORY: 

Welbehealth: Case Study of Adapting PACE Under COVID-19

Key findings:

  • WelbeHealth and the PACE community overall had lower death rates than nursing homes; the national PACE COVID-19 death rate was 3.8%, nearly one-third the 11.8% death rate in nursing homes. WelbeHealth calculated a death rate of 2.4%.
  • WelbeHealth acted early and decisively to minimize exposure with an Incident Command response strategy, dispersing tablets for telehealth visits, PPE, thermometers, food, medication, and other essentials into participants’ homes, and providing nearly all care remotely, which proved effective.
  • PACE’s capitated payment model moves the risk from payor to care provider, aligning incentives and encouraging innovation and efficiency in keeping patients well.
  • Technology provided an important amplification to PACE’s model of care — it allowed for regular check-ins and informed decision-making on care needs. However, the social aspect of the PACE day center cannot be replaced by technology, and it is clear that in-person visits are vital.
  • With America’s senior citizen population set to double by 2040, the demand for long-term care will skyrocket. The pandemic underscored that work must begin now to meet the needs of present and future vulnerable elders.
  • Existing home and community-based services (HCBS) such as PACE demonstrated profound success during the pandemic leading to fresh momentum among policymakers to expand these options further.

PACE’s person-to-person, fully integrated approach maintains the participant’s highest level of independence and quality of life[i]; PACE participants experience an 80% drop in rates of depression after joining.[ii] At a time when America is searching for a better way forward in eldercare, PACE is a proven approach for this vulnerable group.

 

“While PACE has a 45-year track record of success, it remains optional in Medicaid while nursing home benefits are required — it’s time for every vulnerable elder in the country to have access to this gold standard of long-term care,” said Elizabeth Carty, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer of WelbeHealth.

 

Many PACE participants reside in medically underserved areas like San Joaquin County, California, where WelbeHealth’s creative problem-solving and speed to action kept seniors safe in their homes when resources for the elderly were relatively scarce.

 

“As other healthcare organizations were assessing the potential impact and spread of the pandemic, the WelbeHealth team had already taken its crisis response to the next level, ” said Amy Shin, former CEO of Health Plan of San Joaquin. “I was impressed with how nimbly this team charted out a plan not only to keep seniors safe and vaccinated but to vaccinate the community as well. This study’s findings should alert legislators that this style of home and community-based services is the ideal model of care for frail seniors.”

 

What is PACE?
PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) serves low-income seniors who meet their state requirement for nursing home level care allowing them to live independently in their own homes and communities while receiving fully coordinated medical and dental care, physical and occupational therapy, transportation, meals, day programs, home care assistance and more, managed by an 11-person integrated care team. The “one-stop-shop” PACE day centers are the hub of the program, offering seniors a pleasant place to receive care, socialize and enjoy meals within a state-of-the-art facility.

About WelbeHealth
WelbeHealth is a physician-led healthcare organization that provides seniors with high-quality, compassionate care so they can live in their own homes and communities rather than a nursing home. To accomplish this, WelbeHealth uses the PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) model. WelbeHealth currently operates four programs in the Stockton/Modesto, Pasadena/Burbank, Long Beach, and Fresno communities of California.


[i] Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, “Care That Works: Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.” https://www.healthinnovation.org/resources/publications/care-that-works-pace

[ii] National PACE Association, “COVID Data Demonstrates That the PACE Model Is Safer Than Nursing Home Care.” https://www.npaonline.org/about-npa/press-releases/covid-data-demonstrates-pace-model-safer-nursing-home-care

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Wildfire Safety Tips for Seniors

The California wildfires have resulted in some of the worst air quality in the nation.  Seniors can be extremely affected, especially participants in our PACE programs so we’ve created some tips for all seniors:
  1. Remain indoors when at all possible.  Keep windows closed to decrease exposure to smoke.
  2. If you MUST go out wear a mask and limit time outside.
  3. Any worsening cough, congestion or wheezing, please call your PACE center right away.
  4. If you need refills on your respiratory medications including inhalers please call and we are happy to refill if appropriate.

To find out more about PACE services we provide, please click here.

Free photo 1024746 © Frank Farrell – Dreamstime.com

Vision Exam Month

August is National Vision Exam Month.  Healthy vision is important for people of all ages and is key for seniors to be able to live more independent lives in their homes and communities.  Here are some tips from the CDC on how to keep your eyes healthy.

Try 6 Tips for Healthy Eyes—and a Healthy You

  1. Add more movement to your day. Physical activity can lower your risk for health conditions that can affect your vision, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. As a bonus, it can help you feel your best. Pick activities you enjoy and remember, anything that gets your heart beating faster counts!
  2. Get your family talking… about eye health history. Some eye diseases—like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration—can run in families. Although it may not be the most exciting topic of conversation, talking about your family health history can help everyone stay healthy. Ask your relatives if they know about any eye problems in your family. Be sure to share what you learn with your eye doctor to see if you need to take steps to lower your risk.
  3. Step up your healthy eating game. Eating healthy foods helps prevent health conditions—like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure—that can put you at risk for eye problems. Eat dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens that are high in antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Also pick up some fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like halibut, salmon, and tuna.
  4. Stay on top of long-term health conditions—like diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk for some eye diseases, like glaucoma. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor about steps you can take to manage your condition and lower your risk of vision loss.
  5. If you smoke, make a quit plan. Quitting smoking is good for almost every part of your body, including your eyes! That’s right—kicking the habit will help lower your risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Quitting smoking is hard, but it’s possible—and a quit plan can help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.
  6. Give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule—rest your eyes by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Regular vision exams are part of the comprehensive services provided by PACE.  For more about PACE services, click here.

Free photo 5904867 © Nedim Jukić – Dreamstime.com

Tips to Stay Safe During Heatwaves

We are getting well into the summer months which means, hotter temperatures.  We’ve already seen a couple of heat waves come through California summer is officially only a few weeks old!  In addition to the heat, power outages can occur during these high-temperature periods.

Please take measures to stay cool and remain hydrated. Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off. As we age our bodies cannot handle the heat like they did when we were young.  Extreme heat can affect us in the following ways: The main things affecting your body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:

  • High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly. This keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to. High humidity can cause you to sweat excessively which can lead to dehydration.  When your sweat does not evaporate quickly it can lead to feeling overly tired.
  • Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use all can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather. Other factors that can play a role in adverse effects of heat would include fever, medical conditions, poor circulation, certain prescription drug and use of alcohol.
  • Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.

You are potentially at the highest risk for heat-related illness during these heatwaves. When it becomes hot outside, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • Do you have access to air conditioning?
  • Do you need help keeping cool?

You can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as you can. Air-conditioning is the number one way to protect yourself against heat-related illness or complications.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Try not to use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Try cool showers or baths to help you cool down.

Try to avoid going out in the hot sun, but If you need to go outside during hot weather:

  • Limit your outdoor activity, especially when the sun is hottest.
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
  • Pace your activity, start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Be careful in the sun to avoid sunburn. If you can see through your clothing you can get sunburned through them.

For additional tips from the CDC on keeping cool, click here.

To learn more about the services provided by our PACE program, click here.

Benefits of Pets for Seniors

June 26th is Take Your Dog to Work Day!  Per the CDC, there are many health benefits of owning a dog or pet, including helping seniors live more independent lives in their homes and communities. They can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. Most households in the United States have at least one pet.

Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased triglyceride levels
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • Increased opportunities for socialization

WelbeHealth recognizes these benefits, which is why it was important to us to rescue our participant’s dog last year.  Click here for the story and link to video.

To learn more about PACE and the services that we provide, click here.

Exercise Benefits for Seniors from the CDC

May 27th is National Senior Health & Fitness Day.  We’re posting the guidelines from the CDC to help seniors understand the benefits of exercise.

Making Physical Activity a Part of an Older Adult’s Life

When it comes to getting the physical activity you need each week, it’s important to pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you stick with them.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Physical activity has immediate health benefits including better sleep and less anxiety. It also helps reduce your risk of getting serious illnesses such as heart disease, type II diabetes, and depression.
  • Try to do a variety of activities. This can make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Regular physical activity is still safe and good for you even if you have problems doing normal daily activities, such as climbing stairs or walking.
  • Lots of things count. And it all adds up. Find what works for you.
  • If you have to take a break from your regular activity routine due to an illness, be sure to start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.
  • To get to and stay at a healthy weight, work your way up to doing the equivalent of 150 minutes (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Keep in mind that you may need to do more activity or reduce the number of calories you eat to get to your desired weight.

Learn more about everyday activities you can do to stay active.

Multicomponent Physical Activity

A senior woman walking with her dog

As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall. This includes balance training, aerobic activity, and muscle-strengthening activities. An example of a multicomponent physical activity program could include walking (aerobic activity), lifting weights (muscle strengthening), and incorporating balance by walking backwards or sideways or by standing on one foot. These activities can be done at home or in a structured group setting.

Improving Your Balance

Older adults should do activities that help them with balance. Balance activities can improve the ability to resist forces within or outside of the body that cause falls. Fall prevention programs that include balance training and other exercises to improve activities of daily living can also significantly reduce the risk of injury, such as bone fractures, if a fall does occur. These activities might include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, heel to toe walking, practicing standing from a sitting position, and alternating balancing on one leg and then the other with a counter or wall nearby. Strengthening muscles of the back, abdomen, and legs also improves balance.

What if you have a chronic condition?

If you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and even reduce your risk of developing other conditions.

Talk with your doctor to find out if your health condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum recommended activity levels, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive.

What if you have a disability?

If you are an older adult with a disability, regular physical activity can provide you with important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs, and muscles; improved brain health; and a better ability to do everyday tasks. It’s best to talk with your doctor before you begin a physical activity routine. Try to get advice from a professional with experience in physical activity and disability. They can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for you and your abilities.

If you are looking for additional information, visit The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

When to Check with Your Doctor

Doing physical activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people, but if you have a health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes, be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you. Also, if you have been inactive, are not too fit, or are overweight, and want to do vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as jogging, it is safest to discuss this with your doctor.

To learn more about services such as exercise programs that are part of the PACE program, click here.

Senior Isolation – Interview with Debbie Sanchez

Radio Centro America conducted an interview with our own Debbie Sanchez, an Outreach Specialist for our Pacific PACE program in Pasadena.  She discussed the challenges of senior isolation during this global coronavirus pandemic and how WelbeHealth and Pacific PACE have made changes to safely deliver the health and wellness senior care to frail elderly in our service areas, allowing them to continue living more independent lives in their homes and communities.  Click here to watch the interview in Spanish.

For more about the services that PACE provides to help promote senior independence, click here.

Coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes. For many seniors, there’s a safer option.

PACE keeps frail seniors healthy, socially engaged, and thriving, even in these unprecedented times.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and claim lives across the country, many seniors and their families have grown nervous about the potential for outbreaks in nursing homes. Housing about 1.4 million Americans, nursing facilities are a major component of our country’s senior care infrastructure and are facing increasing scrutiny as hotbeds for the spread of the virus. In late April, California reported that nearly 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in the facilities, with a Los Angeles Times analysis finding that the actual figure could be even higher.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are already at high risk, with reports of over 20 percent morbidity for patients ages 80 and older. With the added risk of congregate living in close quarters, nursing homes have become some of the earliest sites of coronavirus outbreaks.

That’s not to say that nursing home operators are to blame for this situation. Even the most comprehensive infection control policies and procedures may not be able to fully contain the virus when the nature of the facilities’ design is so high-risk. In one of his recent daily briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described housing “vulnerable people in one place” as a “feeding frenzy” for coronavirus. Acknowledging the high risk, at least six states have now gone so far as to grant nursing facilities explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits…..read more.

For more on the PACE services that safely provide comprehensive care for seniors, click here.

Entrepreneur.com: How This Mission-Driven Change Agent Is Disrupting Healthcare

A doctor and entrepreneur shares how his team is changing eldercare.

Entrepreneur

– WelbeHealth Founder and CEO, Si France, MD was interviewed by Entrepreneur.com’s Jessica Abo about what motivated him to pave his own path to entrepreneurship.
Health Care Capitalist or Mission-Driven Change Agent? Check out what he has to say about pivoting from the success of the business-model-based GoHealth Urgent Care,  to something that was a force for good:
“I wanted to go create this organization where people weren’t resources in some kind of capitalist plan. We cared about people.”
With a focus on elder care, Si went on to create WelbeHealth, an operator of the Medicaid/Medicare PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly).
PACE serves low-income, Medicaid/Medicare eligible, frail seniors by providing 11-person integrated care teams to each participant so that they can live independently in their own homes and communities while having full access to medical and dental care, meals, transportation, medication management, home health aides, adult day programs, and more. Teams who operate PACE, like Welbe, report an 80% average drop in depression rates after enrollment.
During COVID-19 it saved lives and its rapid response to the pandemic has been featured as a case study in the rapid deployment of telehealth during the lockdown, while still emphasizing the absolute importance of high-touch, in-person care.

Click on the logo to read the full story.