Innovations Fund: Connecting Grantees on the Housing Plus Services Journey

Center Post

An informal conference call on a recent Friday afternoon convinced representatives of 4 LeadingAge member organizations just how much they had in common.

Before the call, the members knew that they were all attempting to bring supportive services into affordable senior housing communities. They also were aware that each had received $25,000 from the LeadingAge Innovations Fund, which received a matching contribution from the NewCourtland Foundation, to support those initiatives.

But during the call, which was facilitated by the LeadingAge Center for Housing Plus Services, the grantees were surprised by how many common experiences they shared, in spite of the fact that their individual projects are so varied. Now, they are anxious to learn as much as they can from one another’s successes and challenges.

“We wanted to make all the grantees aware of each other’s projects,” says Alisha Sanders, manager of the Center for Housing Plus Services. “We hope that when they are struggling with common issues or hitting common barriers, they can serve as a resource to one another.”

Innovations Fund Grantees

The 4 Innovations Fund grantees were profiled recently in LeadingAge magazine:

  • Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) in Pittsburgh, PA is implementing a HomeMeds program through which a nurse and social worker use Internet-based software to catalog the medications of housing residents and flag issues that need attention from the residents’ physicians. 
  • Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE) in Brighton, MA is working with the Alzheimer’s Association to train its housing staff in habilitation therapy. The therapy is designed to help older adults who are experiencing cognitive decline. 
  • Sayre Christian Village in Lexington, KY opened a primary care health clinic in one of its largest independent living communities. A part-time staff person serves as a liaison between clinic staff and housing residents.
  • Francis E. Parker Memorial Home in Piscataway, NJ is launching a social adult day program at 5 independent housing properties within a 5-10 miles radius of the home. 

Common Issues and Experiences

Research, partnerships, diversity and resident engagement were among the areas that grantees found they had in common.

Research: Several of the grantees are depending on research to ensure and measure their success. For example, JAA selected its HomeMeds software after reviewing evidence that the tool helps to reduce medication-related medical issues that can lead to hospitalization, falls and confusion. 

Parker will be looking at its measures of success when seeking charitable funding to sustain the social day program after the pilot ends. And JCHE has already arranged to have researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute conduct a process evaluation to determine the effectiveness of its dementia training program.

“Habitation therapy has been used in nursing homes and in assisted living but it has not been used in an independent housing setting,” says Caren Silverlieb, director of strategic planning and partnerships at JCHE. “We will be testing how successfully this therapy can be applied in this setting so it can be replicated in other independent housing settings.”

Partnerships: All the grantees are working with community partners to help them implement their Housing Plus Services initiatives. JCHE is offering its dementia training program in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association. JAA will begin implementing its HomeMeds program in a 200-unit housing community where it already delivers home health services. 

Sayre Christian Village could never have launched its health clinic without the help of a large primary care practice. Service Coordinator Charlotte Potter attributes the success of that program to the willingness of medical partners to honor residents’ loyalty to their own primary care physicians.

“We started out and are still accepting episodic visits,” says Potter. “Anybody who has a cold or needs a Vitamin B-12 shot can come into the clinic and get that taken care of. Our clinic staff will transfer that information to their primary care physician.”

Diversity: Two grantees have found it challenging to deliver services in buildings with diverse resident populations. Just under half of the 1,500 residents living in JCHE’s 6 housing properties speak Russian while 22% speak Mandarin or Cantonese. Similarly, Francis E. Parker Memorial’s social day programs will serve a high concentration of older adults from Russia, China and Korea.

Finding qualified individuals to run these programs has been a tall order for both organizations. After much searching, JCHE found a Russian bilingual service coordinator who has dementia training and the skills to train other staff members. Parker found more candidates for its program coordinator position after changing that position from a temporary to a permanent staff slot.

“At first, we were being very cautious and referring to it as a temporary position until we could see how successful we are,” says Gloria Zayanskosky, Parker’s quality and operational excellence officer. “But we decided that it was not realistic to ask someone to sign on for a temporary position. We believe in our hearts that the program is going to be extremely successful.”

Resident engagement: Housing residents have shown universal support and enthusiasm for all the Innovations Fund-supported programs. For example, the clinic at Sayre Christian Village has become so popular during the past year that the physicians group recently doubled its on-site hours. And local housing residents are already clamoring to participate in JAA’s HomeMeds program.

“We met with residents and families a few weeks ago,” reports Mary Anne Foley, executive director for hospice and home health programs at JAA. “They were truly delighted when they heard that this program is free, that a nurse will be providing community outreach, and that this will all be done under the supervision of their physicians. We walked out of there with a long list of people who wanted to be first.”