As the U.S. population ages, accessible and quality health care is increasingly essential for staying healthy. Since they began nearly 60 years ago, health centers have provided comprehensive, affordable, and patient-centered care to people at all stages of the life cycle. Today, however, the fastest growing segment of the health center patient population are people 65 and older.
Health centers improve the quality of life for seniors by focusing on preventive care, chronic disease management, and health promotion. Through regular check-ups, health screenings, vaccinations, and chronic disease management plans, health centers also help seniors maintain their health, manage existing conditions, and prevent complications. Health centers also employ interdisciplinary teams of health care professionals, not only physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and mental health specialists, but often community health workers, transportation staff, and home care visiting staff to provide comprehensive care that interact with seniors, enhancing their overall health outcomes.
This Older Americans’ Month, we sat down with members of NACHC’s Subcommittee on Healthy Aging to gain a better understanding of how health centers care for aging patients. They are:
- James Luisi, Board Member, Apicha Community Health Center (New York, NY), former President/CEO, NEW Health, (Boston, MA) and former Board Chair, NACHC
- Anita Rozeff, Compliance Officer, Lamprey Health Care, Inc (Newmarket, NH)
- Irene Taylor Wooten, Board Chair, Jessie Trice Community Health System, Inc (Miami, FL)
Briefly describe one service your health center provides to your patients over 65 years of age.
Luisi: For those who do not qualify for a Home Care program through the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), we offer a nurse practitioner for home visits for seniors that are needed as recommended by their providers.
Rozeff: Although not limited to 65+, we currently receive a grant to refer people with free fitness classes and programs including yoga, health clubs, and walking programs. We have limited offerings since the pandemic due to resources, infection control, and space limitations. With the end of the public health emergency, we will work to offer additional programming for our 65+ patients.
Taylor Wooten: The Jessie Trice Community Health System, Inc. provides a comprehensive program of services for our older Americans that includes medical, dental, behavioral health, podiatry, vision, nutrition, chronic disease management, and socialization.
How has the leadership of the Board and the staff responded to increases in aging populations seeking services through the health center?
Rozeff: Through considering the makeup of our providers, we recognized we needed to add an additional internal medicine provider to meet the growth. As part of our current strategic plan, Lamprey Health Care is looking at offerings including gerontology, home health, remote patient monitoring, and other services to support aging patients where they are rather than needing to come to the center.
Luisi: NEW Health offers a full continuum of care including home care, senior apartments, and even a nursing home.
Taylor-Wooten: By continuing to build upon the services offered to ensure the provision of a full continuum of care that addresses the full range of needs of aging populations. This may include, but is not limited to, transportation services, home visiting, and remote access monitoring.
Why is being a member of NACHC’s Subcommittee on Healthy Aging important to the governance and strategic direction of your organization?
Taylor Wooten: Simply put – because everyone ages! As we continue to serve adults, we are going to see our aging population grow in greater numbers. Being with peers on the Subcommittee allows us to share ideas and hear how other health centers are facing this reality also.
Rozeff: New Hampshire is ranked second in terms of the age of our population. It is imperative to incorporate this growing population’s needs in response to this growth. For Calendar Year 2022 16.4% of patients are 65+. Over the past ten years, we have had a 20% increase in this population. To adequately plan, we need to strategically think about the larger picture. There are so many factors that will impact this population including workforce, home health care, transportation, chronic disease management, long term care, care coordination/navigation. We cannot possibly make responsible decisions with the scarce resources we have with looking at everything – and perhaps helping to inform policy on multiple fronts.
Luisi: It is very important that we are aware of what’s happening around the country from other health centers and NACHC groups you bring to conferences so we can share or learn.
If you are interested in joining NACHC’s Subcommittee on Healthy Aging, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.