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Posted By Private Health News on 06/21/2019

How to Support Caregivers While Meeting Key Health System Goals

By Dan Ansel, President of Active Daily Living


Nancy stops by her mom’s house on her way home from work and notices her mom does not look as well groomed as usual  her clothes are rumpled and her hair isn’t combed. Nancy’s mom says her arthritis is bothering her today, and she had some problems getting out of bed. Concerned, Nancy drops in to see her a couple of days later. This time, she notices her mom has body odor and a bruise on her arm. Her mom admits that she is having trouble getting in and out of her bathtub, and in fact, had a recent fall. 

If you were Nancy, worried about your mom, and now realize you need to take on a big, new responsibility for her care without any prior experience or training, where would you turn? That’s what many people in your community face each day as they step into the role of caregiver for an adult family member.

Almost 40 million Americans are family caregivers, providing assistance and support to a loved one. It’s a responsibility with enormous stress — and one for which most are unprepared.

Why Hospitals Should Care About Caregivers

Active Daily Living (ADL) is a new, unique online program that positions hospitals and healthcare providers as the trusted resource for family caregivers dealing with the challenges of aging loved ones, in particular maintaining independence, maximizing health status, and safely aging-in-place. ADL offers providers a robust set of interactive tools and personalized content with which to directly engage caregivers, effectively becoming their partner in better caring for their loved ones.

With ADL, hospitals can recognize and support the important role of caregivers, a growing audience and a role frequently neglected or ignored in strategic plans and marketing communication. That’s why we created ADL.

The inspiration for Active Daily Living really came from my 35-year career in healthcare. My experience with seniors has included directing a community-based geriatric service team, leading a hospital system’s senior services, and designing Medicare Advantage and senior-oriented patient communication programs. Out of my passion for meeting the needs of seniors and the synergy of that previous work — ADL was born.

Forward-looking hospitals know they need to position themselves as the experts in caring for older adults. More than 10,000 people turn 65 every day, and Medicare makes up the majority of hospital revenue. The cost implications are important — family caregivers fill out 30-40 percent of Medicare patient satisfaction surveys — and they are often the first line of defense in avoiding hospital readmissions.

ADL gives caregivers a place to turn for practical answers, not only regarding a loved one’s care, but also guidance to reduce the stress and uncertainty that accompanies caregiving. Through personalized advice and ongoing communication, ADL helps caregivers navigate the complexities of keeping a loved one as independent and safe as possible.

This comprehensive approach is one of the most innovative aspects of ADL. Although thousands of products and tips are out there to help people manage challenges with activities of daily living there has not been one place to learn about these things — until now. And no assessments existed that, not only identified the challenges, but also provided real help tailored to the individual patient or caregiver.

Supporting a loved one usually starts small. A daughter goes online to make sure her mom chooses a reputable physician. A nephew realizes his widowed uncle may be a fall risk and looks for help. With ADL, healthcare providers can be the first and most trusted source for answers.  

Components of Active Daily Living

Active Daily Living is a comprehensive set of informational resources that support family caregivers by using interactive, online modules and tools. When a provider partners with ADL, every element is branded as their hospital, reinforcing the organization’s commitment to support caregivers as partners in care.

In developing Active Daily Living, we went to the healthcare professionals with the greatest expertise in working with older adults — occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and physicians — who then partnered with us to design each ADL component. We also incorporated content supported by evidence-based research.  

Modules include:

More than 50 one-of-a-kind, targeted assessments on performing various ADL/IADL tasks — from personal care to dealing with fall prevention and medication compliance. Each professionally developed assessment takes only a couple of minutes to complete by a caregiver or senior patient. The participant receives a personalized action plan that includes no or low cost ideas, along with guidance on aging, maximizing health status and living independently.

Hundreds of quick care tips and videos with immediate free or low-cost ideas to support functioning and independence in areas like hygiene, walking, fall prevention, shopping, cooking and driving.

Caregiver navigator guides (both online and in print) with information and insights on how to advocate and support a loved one through health issues, avoid readmission, and get the best results from encounters with doctors and hospitals.

E-newsletters with customized, medically reviewed content segmented by the specific needs and wellness interests that the reader selects, including the latest updates on specific conditions they face, such as senior health, memory loss, stroke, arthritis, COPD or Parkinson’s disease.

A caregiver’s library with hundreds of searchable articles that speak to the caregiver or senior’s most pressing practical issues, such as how to safeguard the caregiver’s own health and well-being.

ADL Delivers Important Benefits for Key Health System Goals

Active Daily Living’s interactive content and personalized advice helps caregivers and seniors better understand and navigate the healthcare system. At the same time, that informed caregiver or patient can help the healthcare system achieve some key goals, including:

Population health strategies, such as better chronic disease management and prescription compliance

Enhancing senior health and women’s health service lines

Reducing avoidable hospitalizations and readmission's

Increasing patient satisfaction scores

Increasing patient acquisition and market share

 

How ADL helps

To understand how ADL works to support a caregiver throughout the journey, let’s take a closer look at Nancy who has just realized her mom is having some issues related to aging.

Nancy searches online for help and finds her hospital’s Active Daily Living resources. She discovers some quick tip videos that show her how to help her mom bathe without risking a fall in her tub, as well as tips for getting dressed without pain. She then takes the mobility assessment to see if there are other issues her mom might be dealing with. Nancy decides to go along for her mom’s next checkup, and she finds a checklist in the Caregiver Navigator guide for what to bring to the appointment and what to ask her mom’s doctor.

At the doctor’s office:

Thanks to the ADL’s Caregiver Navigator guidance, Nancy helps her mom gather what they’ll need to take to the appointment. They discuss questions to ask. Nancy is able to ask some of the difficult questions her mom might not bring up, so they know what to expect in the future.

At the hospital:

When they learn that Nancy’s mom needs to be hospitalized for a hip replacement, again Nancy feels more prepared from what’s she’s learned from the Caregiver Navigator. She’s able to help her mom prepare for her hospital stay, better understand what to expect in the hospital (including how pain issues are addressed), the best ways to communicate with the physicians and nurses, how to prepare for post care after discharge, and how to reduce the chance of her mom being readmitted unnecessarily.

After the hospital:

Using ADL resources, Nancy learns what to look for in a short-term rehab, what adjustments her mom’s home will need for her to be safe and independent, and realizes the importance of her mom’s medication routine to avoid a readmission.

Filling out the survey:

Nancy fills out the patient satisfaction survey her mom receives after a hospital stay. Nancy’s experience with ADL made her feel informed and empowered throughout her mom’s hospital stay. Consequently, Nancy’s responses are more positive because she was recognized and included as a part of her mom’s care team.

Through the years:

Nancy continues to be a caregiver for her mom through the years and additional health issues. Nancy receives ongoing information through ADL with e-newsletters tailored to her mom’s conditions, declining abilities and Nancy’s own caregiving needs. She learns the latest information about arthritis and her mom’s other health conditions, and about related services and specialists available through the provider. She also has access to assessment tools and ideas on how to assist her mom as new challenges present themselves. She learns ways to cope with the growing demands of caregiving and how to protect her own health. Perhaps most importantly, she’s able to find out what her mom wants and can talk with health providers openly about her mom’s preferences.

Ahead of the Curve 

Active Daily Living is a resource that helps hospitals support both caregivers and seniors. Paying attention to a long-ignored audience – family caregivers — can set a health system apart in its market, as well as provide a great community benefit. It integrates seamlessly with the organization’s existing communication assets and facilitates a more positive caregiving experience. The benefits for families, providers and the broader community add up to more effective and efficient healthcare delivery, better communication between clinicians and caregivers, and stronger brand preference over generations.

Dan Ansel is co-founder, president and CEO of Active Daily Living and Private Health News. He creates innovative services and programs used by hundreds of clients to advance the success of healthcare organizations in serving their communities.