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Assisted Living: An Age-Friendly Health System

By on January 17, 2019
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Our current healthcare system in the United States if often overcrowded and under-supported, with most hospitals and short-stay facilities focused on one primary goal: to move patients along as quickly as possible. While our current systems may focus on efficiency, they lack success when it comes to patient satisfaction, readmission rates and staffing resources. These models are also not meeting the needs of the most vulnerable users, many of whom are seniors.Assisted Living: An Age-Friendly Health System

Age-Friendly Health Systems are different and aim to provide seniors with “effective, patient-centered, safe care.” Read more about Age-Friendly Health Systems and how they can improve care for seniors in assisted living communities, hospitals and beyond.

The Age-Friendly Health System Concept

According to an article published by McKnight Senior Living, Age-Friendly Health Systems are an initiative of “The John A. Hartford Foundation and led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States.”

This group model works diligently to improve care and safety for older adults, and the goal is to have Age-Friendly Health Systems available for use in “one-fifth of U.S. hospitals and health systems by 2020.”

The crux of Age-Friendly Heath Systems is rooted in four fundamental principals, or what IHI refers to as “The 4M Age-Friendly Care Model.”

These four principals include:

  1. (What) Matters: Act on each senior’s specific care preferences and health outcome goals across settings.
  2. Medication: If medications are necessary, use age-friendly medications that do not interfere with alternate principals.
  3. Mentation: Manage and treat delirium, dementia and depression across care settings.
  4. Mobility: Ensure that seniors can move safely every day in order to maintain function and do what matters.

The Benefit of Age-Friendly Health Systems for Seniors in Assisted Living

The term “patient-centered care” has been a part of the healthcare landscape for several years, with many assisted living communities and hospitals aiming to provide care that is personal and informed. Age-Friendly Health Systems take this concept even further, by helping to meet the goals and preferences of senior patients, not just temporarily, but long term.

McKnight Senior Living outlines the progress made at Glacier Hills, an assisted living community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During a pilot project that utilized the Age-Friendly Care Model, “Anybody admitted into the assisted living or independent living area, on their initial admission, gets a question by the admitting nurse about what matters to them. What’s important in their life? Is it to live as long as they can or to stay as independent as they want to be or to live to their grandchild’s wedding?” explains Cheryl Huckins, M.D. and co-medical director at the CCRC explains.

By learning about their residents and the things that matter most to them, Glacier Hills was able to develop a plan to provide care in a way that honors these important values.

Glacier Bay also addressed the issue of mobility with its residents during the pilot project: new residents undergo a mobility assessment to identify their specific needs and in many cases a referral to the wellness director is made “to help them stay as mobile as they can [to] participate in all the different kinds of activities that are available.”

If the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has its way, 20% of hospitals in the U.S. will offer Age-Friendly Health Systems by the year 2020.  By continuing the spread of this revolutionary approach to providing care for seniors, seniors can be reassured that they are receiving the best, patient-centered care possible that allows them to be involved in their own healthcare and embrace what matters most to them.

How do you think Age-Friendly Health Systems will improve the care you’re receiving now? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler is a writer and editor dedicated to improving seniors' lives through education, activism, volunteerism and community programs. Her other passions include yoga, literature, history, education and conservation. She is active in her local community and currently volunteers with the Hamilton Naturalists' Club. Kimberley earned a Master of Arts in English Literature and Language from the University of Windsor, an Honours Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto.