By Karen Schaffner
Mark Goldstein is a risk reducer.
With a bit of probing and a specialized computer program, he can predict if, within six months, someone will land in the hospital.
“We spend extra time going through the house, looking at everything like the medication situation (for example),” Goldstein says. “How is it dosed out? Do they understand? Do they have a way of getting prescription renewals? We’re able to take that information and put that into our program. We can actually spit out their risk of going into the hospital six months from now.”
Goldstein is a community liaison for Senior Helpers, an organization that specializes in caring for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The nationwide company assists clients with aging in their homes, but staff works with nursing homes as well.
It starts with a phone call from a family member or even from the potential client who recognizes a need. The process continues with a free in-home visit, where Goldstein does a needs assessment.
“We have an assessment called a Life Profile Assessment that really looks at multiple areas for an individual,” says Tehjan Prendiville, Senior Helper executive director.
Some of the needs found during the assessment can be easily managed.
“Are they eating well? We can do meals,” Prendiville says. “They’re not grocery shopping correctly. We can do that for them.”
Then there’s the more personal support.
“It’s not safe for them to get in and out of the shower, so what can we do to rectify that? Then, we can make recommendations.”
“That’s what we do,” Goldstein adds. “We have the ability to reduce risk through our caregivers.”
“(The Life Profile Assessment) is an important tool for people,” Prendiville says. “It’s really pretty predictable what puts people in the hospital. It’s going to be a fall; it’s going to be a medication. Medication errors are probably No. 1.”
Cameras, accessible to family members, are other tools used to keep clients safe. Electronic devices worn on the wrist, too, can detect falls or give reminders in family members’ voices to take medications.
Senior Helpers will just socialize, too, or help a client get out of bed and dressed. It just depends on the need, which often changes with time.
Not everyone is excited to receive this type of care. Unfortunately, it is sometimes thrust upon a person through an accident or other medical condition.
“Generally, what happens with somebody who is resistant and won’t let somebody come in is that it takes something to happen,” Pendiville says. “Generally, like a fall, and then they have to have help.”
Senior Helpers is book at a minimum of four hours that must be paid out of pocket, as Medicare will not cover it. The cost is $31.25 an hour, which is a flat rate and doesn’t vary according to the time of day or services rendered.
Veterans may qualify for assistance with these expenses, but it is by reimbursement.
“The VA, if you’re lucky enough to be a veteran, will pay for it,” Prendiville says. “Not only will they pay for what we do, when we make recommendations like, OK, the shower’s not safe, they give what’s called a grant in whatever the dollar amount is to redo the bathroom to make it accessible. They will put in ramps to make it accessible. The VA will pay for all of that. Nobody else will but the VA will.”
“It will also provide respite for spouses,” Goldstein added.
Some of the Medicare Advantage plans are starting to address payment for these services. With Senior Helpers, it is not yet available, according to Pendiville.