People ages 65 and older are the largest growing segment of the population. Primary care practitioners provide most of the care for this population; but the complicated regimen required for this frail population can lead to inefficient, fragmented and ineffective services.
Recognizing the need for coordinated, interdisciplinary care, UC Davis Health opened its Healthy Aging Clinic in 2021. A team of geriatricians, geriatric nurse practitioners, pharmacists, cognitive specialists, physical therapists and case managers collaborate on cases in hopes of filling the gaps that can result in complex cases.
The goal of the new clinic is to provide comprehensive services that preserve the functionality and independence of older-adult patients. And since family caregivers provide more than 80% of long-term care to these older adults, support for family caregivers is also offered.
“We offer consultation to support caregivers in their monumental role tending to an older adult. We also have training services, so we can teach them how to do complex tasks such as managing medications and caring for wounds,” says Terri Harvath, senior director for strategic initiatives and director for the Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. “The inclusion of services and attention to family caregivers sets UC Davis Health apart from other health systems.”
Harvath began caregiver consultations in February. Nancy Pennebaker, who cares for her 84-year-old husband challenged by cognitive decline, says the support is a life saver.
“No one knows how to be a caregiver. You just jump in and start doing and making mistakes. You feel scared and guilty and stressed,” Pennebaker explains. “After meeting with Terri, I don’t feel so alone anymore. She suggests things that need to change and shows me how to do that. I’m growing as a result. I kind of like who I’m becoming because I’m learning a lot.”
Harvath and Healthy Aging Initiative leaders believe this coordinated and comprehensive approach will ultimately decrease costs associated with emergency visits and hospitalizations, while increasing health and wellness.