When Health Fails in Retirement Communities: a 3 Step Program for Proactive Healthcare Intervention

Health related attrition is a major ongoing challenge to the census of any Retirement Community.  A solution to this challenge is a COMMITTED FOCUS on a program of Proactive Healthcare Intervention.  Such a program is not only easy to implement with common sense ideas, it’s free!

Here’s my suggestion for a simple 3 step program that will be effective and easy to explain to employees.

Figure 1

Under Step 1: Create a position called: Director of Proactive Healthcare (DPH).  Enlist the support of every employee:  housekeepers, bookkeepers, secretaries, maintenance personnel, bus drivers, cooks, activity directors, everyone.  Encourage everyone who interacts with residents to actively observe for any signs of health problems and to report any concerns immediately to the DPH.

Under Step 2:  The Inflection Point (shown in Figure 2) occurs as soon as signs of failing health are noted.  When the Inflection Point has been reached, take immediate action!  “Don’t wait, or it’ll be too late!” can be your motto.

Figure 2

Here are some examples of failing health employees may observe and then report to the DPH:

  • Frequent falls
  • Bruising
  • Limping
  • Moving slower than usual
  • Missing meals or residents requesting meals in their room
  • Problems taking medications appropriately
  • Pills noted on the floor or lying around on countertops in resident’s apartment
  • Worsening depression
  • Less socializing
  • Confusion

Residents exhibiting any of these signs should be put on a “watch list” and monitored by the DPH until they are back to baseline.

Under Step 3:  The most reliable way of getting a timely and appropriate response from a physician is NOT by telephone.  When a concern is raised, the DPH should go personally to the office of the resident’s physician and speak with him face-to-face.  Provide a concise, accurate description of the changes observed with the resident, and request an office visit at the first possible opening.

As you can see, these are 3 very simple and yet effective components of a proactive focus on the healthcare of your residents.  Implementing these suggestions is easy, does not require any additional expense, and will benefit everyone.

If you have any further thoughts or suggestions about the role of physicians in Retirement Communities, I urge you to comment on the House Calls blog.

This is an important topic, and I look forward to continuing this discussion and hearing other points of view.

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