Senior living communities that aren’t CCRCs but want to have aging in place capabilities are looking to innovative health and wellness models to cut down on turnover and allow residents to remain as long as possible.
One Florida rental retirement community, which offers independent living, assisted living, and memory care services, found that many of its incoming and existing residents had health needs that could stand in the way of aging in place.
“What we found was, there’s always a big disconnect with families being educated, and the services available in between the stages [of care],” says Jim Antonucci, the executive director of The Village at North Florida Retirement Community in Gainesville, Fla.
It’s common for senior living residents to wait until they get to a point where they have to transition from one level of care to another, but rather than waiting until people became frail and unhealthy, Antonucci’s community decided to be proactive.
In October, The Village began a program to assess both existing residents’ and incoming residents’ health needs, and a coordination program went live in January of this year.
“We got so much data from this, we realized that some of our residents had a lot of needs, maybe needed home healthcare, while others in assisted living could have been independent and might just need minor assistance,” Antonucci says.
After showing the collected data to a medical committee and to the community’s board, The Village decided to establish a clinic with a full-time registered nurse (RN), and form a third-party partnership with a group of doctors specializing in 60+ senior care. When residents join The Village’s “vitality program,” they sign a release allowing the community to share their information with the doctor group.
The community’s RN tracks residents’ wellness and is essentially “the concierge of their wellness plan,” says Antonucci. The nurse coordinates with the doctors if the residents need rehabilitative care or occupational or physical therapy.
Most senior living communities that don’t have skilled nursing centers are not eligible to receive Medicare reimbursements, and The Village is no different. The wellness model utilizes its partnerships with third parties who are provide the care.
“The trick is, all of these services have to accept Medicare, so it’s no cost to the resident,” he says. “It’s just like if they went to a doctor or to rehab off-campus—they’d have to use Medicare. We just put the services under one roof.”
While The Village doesn’t make money off of those Medicare-reimbursed services, they keep the place full, says Antonucci, and they deliver happier residents who maintain their independence longer.
“Some communities will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing,” he says. “We spend our marketing dollars on our vitality program, and we’re benefitting tremendously from having the full campus.”
The wellness program’s marked results—reduced falls among independent living residents and far fewer emergency room visits—has given The Village a significant referral base, its executive director notes.
“We get referrals from doctors, from specialists, from rehab, from family members talking, and from the seniors themselves,” he says. “The word gets out that the care is awesome on-campus.”
That can be seen by the average number of emergency calls (when residents call an ambulance to take them to the emergency room) each month, which dropped from about 50-55 to 12.
Falls among independent living residents also shrank dramatically, from about 24-28 a month to six.
The next step for The Village, says Antonucci, is to quantify the data it’s collecting through resident assessments to strategically plan ahead in response to its findings.
Written by Alyssa Gerace