When Chad Solvie and his wife began operating three senior living communities in Washington state, one of their biggest challenges was ensuring consistent, quality care for their residents, who are mostly low-income seniors on Medicaid and Medicare.
“Our providers were kind of a hodgepodge,” says Solvie, president and CEO of the privately owned Cascade Senior Living Services. “Some were highly engaged, some were not.”
So he turned to Optum to see if its assisted living plan, which brings care teams directly in to senior communities, could provide a “clinical backstop” like other Optum programs he had seen work successfully during his 30-year career in skilled nursing communities.
Though it’s only been a year, Solvie says the results are proving that the Optum care model and UnitedHealthcare© Assisted Living Planare “just the right thing.”’
“We have seen a real transformation in the lives of our residents,” he says.
Here’s a look at how Optum is helping Cascade meet the needs of its most vulnerable residents, while also providing an added layer of resource for staff and a single, easy-to-reach point of contact for families.
The patient-centric Optum care model and UnitedHealthcare Assisted Living Planbrings specialized health care benefits, clinical support and expert care teams to qualified residents in senior living communities.
The care teams are led by nurse practitioners or physician assistants who make regular visits and help coordinate and manage residents’ total care and benefits, which include everything from therapy to mental health services and dental care.
Better health care equals happier, more engaged residents
Leading the care team that works with Cascade is Patricia Jergens, a nurse practitioner with Optum Complex Care Management.
One of her patients joined the program with a recurring cellulitis infection in her legs.
“She was really struggling and not doing well with her treatment at a wound clinic, in part because she was missing appointments,” Jergens says.
After Jergens began managing the resident’s treatment on-site, the infection finally resolved.
“Every time I see her now, she smiles and says, ‘Look at my legs. They’re still looking good, Patty,’” Jergens says.
The resident has now regained some of her passions, coloring other residents’ hair and doing their makeup. That renewed interest by residents in social activities, Solvie says, is a “soft side benefit” that he is seeing across his communities.
Happier residents, less-stressed staff
In addition to the on-site care teams, the Optum plan offers a comprehensive slate of benefits, including vision care, hearing aids, transportation, even sitter services.
Solvie calls the Optum program “good glue” that keeps whole patient care on track. That includes the easier coordination of things like in-house physical therapy, which has helped reduce Cascade’s falls by as much as 50 percent.
And staff, he says, is able to better focus and expand on their primary responsibilities.
“They’re not dealing with all the faxes and communication and remote services,” he says. “You’ve got someone down the hallway you can either talk to – or at the worst – pick up the phone knowing we’re going to see them tomorrow and talk about a situation today. Things don’t get so serious because they’re being dealt with ahead of time.”
Jergens has also gone above and beyond her patient-care duties, Solvie says. When the pandemic was taxing the resources of local laboratories, Jergens was instrumental in helping
Cascade get an internal system up and running.
Delivering on Cascade’s mission to ‘age in place’
While it’s too soon in the partnership to provide hard data on the overall benefits Optum has provided, Solvie says it has definitely helped him advance his mission to keep residents in their communities so they can age in place.
One of the first residents to sign up was a woman whose health was spiraling. But with the help of Optum, Solvie says she was able to avoid skilled nursing before she died because the Optum care team was able to ensure her needs were being met. And that kept her enthusiastic about staying in and involved in the community, even hosting crafts classes despite her growing health struggles.
“If she saw me in the elevator, the first thing she wanted to do was complain about her slot on the schedule because she had way too many people that wanted to participate in her classes,” he says. “She was kind of arguing and feisty up until the very end.”
And that, Solvie says, is what aging in place is all about.
This article is sponsored by Optum, whose care model and UnitedHealthcare Assisted Living Plan brings specialized health plan benefits, clinical support and expertise to residents in assisted living communities. For more information on how this patient-centric model can benefit both you and your residents, visit optum.com/ALC.