Health Care

As Population Ages, Growing Demand for Home Care

BOARDMAN, Ohio – With the shift of senior care beginning to swing to home health care from nursing homes and hospices, a bigger focus than ever has been put on improving the quality of life for patients.

That can mean anything from providing transportation to helping patients tend their gardens or flower beds to ensuring that patients can do as much on their own as possible, said eight representatives from senior care providers at The Business Journal’s roundtable discussion, published in the MidOctober edition.

“The reality of what we’re faced with as a nation and as a community is that people want to stay independent for as long as possible,” said Mike Senchak, co-owner of FirstLight Home Care. “So it’s a matter of bringing in resources so they can have that high quality of life, enjoying the things the used to do, enjoying time with their families and participating in their communities.”

For all involved in the discussion, quality of life is the top focus. Park Vista in Youngstown is building a learning center that will allow residents and some guests to watch lectures and performances from around the globe. Hospice of the Valley has put together a Legacy Video program, where patients can talk about their lives on video, which are then put on DVD for their families.

“We want people to [fully] live until they die,” said Liz McGarry, director of development for Hospice of the Valley. “That means being there for pain management and working with the family and patient through a team of social workers, nurses and chaplains that work to ensure that on the transition, everything is covered mentally, physically and spiritually.”

According to David Mirkin, president of Comfort Keepers, 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes rather than go a nursing home. And with an projected 34% of Mahoning County residents being age 60 or older by 2030, the need for the services Comfort Keepers provides will be greater.

“The service we provide is going to be here and it’s always going to be here,” Mirkin said. “The growth of potential of clients isn’t a problem. Our problem is getting and retaining good employees.”

Many agreed that an employee’s character is what they look for most when they interview applicants.

“Each and every time we have a new hire, we explain to them that we don’t really have a storefront – we do, but people don’t really come to our office – so they [the employees] are our storefront and it’s important that they represent our organization,” said Greg Davis, co-owner of Patriot Home Care.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, he added, some home care providers have seen changes in how they are reimbursed and how quickly, which often causes problems.

“It seems that as the days, weeks and months go by, that the government is looking at different ways of doing take-backs that make it more difficult for us to get reimbursement, which makes it harder to take care of patients on a day-to-day basis,” Davis said.

Through the challenges and processes, the most important thing is education, said Lisa Solley, chief of community relations for the Area Agency on Aging District 11.

“Education is key not only for those receiving care, but also for the community,” she said. “There are so many people and so many services that we have to integrate that knowledge with people as they age, whether it’s in hospital stays or people looking for assistance for acute injuries.”

All assistance from the agency, she noted, is free, including an in-home evaluation.

Also participating in the roundtable discussion were Dottie Johntony, general manager of HomeInstead Senior Care, and Connie Morgan, the director of social services for Park Vista of Youngstown.

Pictured: Roundtable discussion took place Sept. 29 at the Holiday Inn Boardman.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.