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Case Study: Assistive services bridging the gap

March 30, 2016
by Rebecca Evans-Slone, CSA
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The most beneficial thing we can give our seniors is the ability to remain capable and independent. It’s this philosophy of granting as much independence as possible—and allowing seniors to stay in one community for as long as is healthy and safe—that has given rise as of late to wellness studios in independent living and continuing care retirement communities.

Wellness studios, run by fully licensed, bonded and insured healthcare agencies, provide easy access for seniors to get help with their activities of daily living (ADLs)—providing a solution that benefits the seniors, their families and administrators alike.

An onsite wellness studio provides residents with incremental services—sometimes as few as 15 minutes a day-based on their needs. Studios can provide everything from a small amount of assistance, such as laundry, medication reminders or wellness checks, to more inclusive services, such as hourly and/or live-in services.

The studio model makes it easy for residents to schedule services or talk with the provider. Residents can increase, decrease or add services at any time and only pay for the services they use. This alleviates the need for families to search for a qualified care provider or pay for more services than are necessary. Facility administrators have the knowledge that all studio aides have passed a full background check and will be supervised. Additionally, the studio provider ensures that all its shifts and services are covered, bringing in staff as needed to cover sick and vacation time for its employees.

At retirement villages or continuing care retirement communities that don’t have similar onsite services, families must help their loved ones with ADLs themselves or make arrangements to hire a caretaker. Unfortunately, most caretakers have a two-hour minimum for their services to remain profitable, and families end up paying for more care than their loved one needs.

Wellness studios add a measure of control and independence for residents, allowing them to stay in the place they have come to think of as home for a longer period of time. And, studios also reduce the burden on facility administrators of accounting for large numbers of strangers coming in and out of their facilities to deliver ancillary services--individuals who need to be qualified, licensed or insured.

Case study: Clark-Lindsey Retirement Village, Urbana, Ill.

Clark-Lindsey Retirement Village is a non-profit continuing care retirement community in Urbana, Illinois, with nearly 140 private apartments located on 28 acres of park land. In September 2013, VNA Healthtrends entered into a partnership with the senior living site to operate a wellness studio in a 600-square-foot rented office space located in the Clark-Lindsey community.

Residents are encouraged to visit the office any time from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Many stop by just to chat with the supervisor or aides. If a resident wants to book a regular service, such as help getting dressed in the morning or help with laundry, a supervisor would meet with him or her and plan out an appropriate schedule. One-time services, such as an escort to an appointment, can be scheduled in person or over the phone a few days in advance. The studio also offers residents Medicare Home Health services and provides staffing support to Meadowbrook Health Center, Lindsey-Clark’s adjoining assisted living and skilled nursing facility.

Residents are drawn to the incremental services offered by the wellness studio, says Ron Wilcox, Clark-Lindsey’s vice president of residential services. “The nice thing is that you can get [services] for shorter periods of time. There isn’t a two-hour minimum,” he said. “If a resident needs someone to help get their morning routine going, or fix their breakfast or make their bed, they can get a 30-minute assistance from the VNA staff. It makes it more affordable and convenient, especially for someone who doesn’t need intensive services.”

In addition to these individual services, the studio offers several activities for the entire community, including weekly blood pressure clinics, monthly health chats, occasional ice cream socials and other group activities.

The partnership between Clark-Lindsey and VNA Healthtrends has benefitted the residents and the administration, Wilcox says. VNA Healthtrend’s wellness supervisor and Clark-Lindsey’s residency coordinators hold weekly meetings to collaborate on resident needs and troubleshoot any issues. The administration has the security of knowing that the studio’s care providers are fully licensed and insured. The residents, meanwhile, have access to a range of services when—and only when—they want them.

For communities looking to add a wellness studio, it’s important to find a provider with expertise as an onsite service provider, since there will be a learning curve for agencies with no prior experience. The biggest skill a provider needs to have is the ability to collaborate and be a part of a team. Building relationships is essential to a well-run and successful wellness studio and to achieving the primary goal of keeping residents happy and healthy.

Rebecca Evans-Slone, CSA, Agency Director, VNA Healthtrends, oversees all operations, growth and licensure compliance for home health provider VNA Healthcare’s Private Duty and Personal Services in Illinois. A Certified Senior Advisor, Rebecca has 30 years of experience in home healthcare management.