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A recent briefing on the Hill entitled, "Innovations in Care Coordination: Rethinking the Role of Home Care Workers," featured panels of experts speaking about the growing demand, and increasing importance of, direct care workers in caring for older adults across the United States.
Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA) spoke about his bill, the Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens through Workforce Advancement Act of 2011, and how it would assist in promoting and expanding the roles of direct care workers.
Sen. Casey's bill would establish 6, 3-year demonstrations programs, to be implemented under Title IV of the Older Americans Act (OAA), that would work toward increasing care coordination and decreasing unecessary hospital re-admissions.
The bill would include the following:
Another panelist, Dr. Thomas Edes, director of geriatrics and extended care for the Office of Clinical Operations at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), spoke about the success of the VA's Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) program.
This home-based, interdisciplinary care program that targets chronically ill veterans has been found to decrease hospital admissions, reduce the number of hospital days a patient is admitted, and reduce combined VA and Medicare overall costs.
Dr. Edes compared elements of this VA program with the soon to be implemented Independence at Home program, created under the Affordable Care Act.
Dr. Edes ended his presentation by explaining another VA program, the Medical Foster Home. This program involves a member of the community using their home as a foster home for a dependent veteran who needs daily personal assistance.
This unique and innovative program works with the VA HBPC program to provide both medical care and caregiver education. The Medical Foster Home program is currently underway in 55 cities in 34 states with the hopes of expanding the program to 82 cities in 44 states soon.
Overall, the program highlighted the need for direct care workers to take on more advanced roles in the provision of care for the rapidly growing older adult population.
Through innovative programs like the ones provided by the VA, legislation created by Sen. Casey, and initiatives soon to be implemented under the Affordable Care Act, the role of direct care workers will continue to evolve as the needs and desires of olders adults continue to grow.