Everyone has forgotten their car keys or lost track of a credit card at some point. However, if you’ve noticed a loved one experiencing these incidents more frequently or with increased severity as they age, you may be concerned about their brain and mental health.
In pre-pandemic times, Inspira LIFE worked to help the aging population in South Jersey live happy and self-sufficient lives through the support of its medical, psychiatric, social and transportation services. Despite the current limitations placed on in-person visits and counseling, Inspira LIFE has pivoted to a new hybrid model of virtual and in-person approaches geared toward maintaining participants’ health and lifestyles. Described as a “one stop shop for care” by Maryann Lauletta, M.D., FACHE, the new Medical Director of Inspira LIFE, the current model has delivered a newfound sense of independence to aging adults in South Jersey during COVID-19.
“Throughout life, we watch our loved ones age and become socially isolated as their family moves away or becomes busy with their own daily responsibilities. This not only makes loved ones increasingly more lonely, but it also becomes more difficult to get to the pharmacy or to their doctor’s appointments—and this is just during non-pandemic times,” said Dr. Lauletta. “But Inspira LIFE allows participants to navigate this changing lifestyle and care landscape on their own terms while being supported by a team of health care professionals. And now, while the world is stuck at home, it is more important than ever for our older community members to be able to live independently. And we are here to provide the resources they need to be successful.”
Inspira LIFE allows caregivers to feel confident knowing that their loved one has a multidisciplinary team helping to manage health challenges, medications, appointment scheduling, transportation services, behavioral wellness counseling and social activities—all of which are currently conducted under the new hybrid model.
“Right now, our aging population is one of the most vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 era. Although our in-person day center activities are currently paused, we are overjoyed with the response and participation of our participants in our virtual visits and activities,” said Dr. Lauletta.
Participants enrolled in Inspira LIFE have access to a variety of virtual options related to medical, social and behavioral care. Care Coach is one such program where a participant receives an iPad programmed with a virtual avatar that acts as a companion or “buddy” for the participant. It also serves as a 24/7 communication channel between the individual and the LIFE Team. This buddy system is used to remind participants to take their medications, exercise, meditate and breathe.
“We are conducting many visits via telemedicine and have delivered telemonitoring devices to our high-risk patients. Now we can track blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation levels even when we are not present. We use these results to adjust medications and treatment plans remotely,” said Dr. Lauletta. “As a point of interest, we have our MUSE system as well. A neurofeedback activity tool, this program utilizes a headband to track EEG activity while the patient practices guided meditation. It sets up a sort of game for the participant so they can know when they are in the desirable zone of relaxation. This device is particularly useful with participants with post-traumatic stress disorder. These quick diagnostic tools allow us to make fast changes to our participants’ care plans and allow the participants to avoid a potential trip to the clinic or emergency room.”
Enrollment in LIFE is available to those who have Medicare or Medicaid—or who have the ability to pay privately and meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be 55 years of age or older
- Live in the designated PACE service area—for Inspira that currently comprises all of Cumberland County and the specific zip codes in Salem and Gloucester counties
- Require a level of care that would make a participant eligible for placement in Long Term Facility under NJ Medicaid
- Able to live in a community setting without jeopardizing their health and safety (with services and supports of PACE)
Advanced age is typically accompanied by a series of challenges, ranging from social isolation to limited access to focused medical attention. Yet tapping into a team of health care professionals dedicated solely to this demographic not only enhances the patient’s lifestyle, but also assists caretakers with their often challenging role.
“When thinking about referring a patient to Inspira LIFE, you should consider the patients that you believe can no longer carry out the care plan you are prescribing. It’s knowing that you should and could do more for this patient to help them be successful, but you don’t have the time or resources in order to do so,” said Dr. Lauletta. “It’s noticing they aren’t attending their in-person or virtual appointment when they should be, or maybe they are requesting meetings too frequently. It could be seeing that your patient is struggling to stay on top of their medications, or perhaps they aren’t getting them filled. Sadly, these little things begin to pile up and that’s when you know it’s time that perhaps they need that next level of care.”
Prior to joining, prospective participants meet with a pre-enrollment and nursing team to undergo a series of screenings. This comprehensive evaluation helps to not only qualify the patient for the program, but also helps give a new perspective on how this individual can be cared for while still being able to maintain an independent lifestyle.
“LIFE stands for Living Independently for Elders and we strive to achieve this goal for every participant. Inspira LIFE seeks to help our participants maintain an active, self-reliant lifestyle, especially during COVID-19. With our new care delivery approach, our quality metrics have stayed solid or improved,” said Dr. Lauletta. “Our main goals are to allow participants to maintain their dignity and age in place safely, as well as remove the pressure from caregivers. We want to alleviate caregivers’ responsibility for scheduling appointments, getting prescriptions, driving to and from appointments and instead, help them focus on one thing: enjoy spending time with family.”