The City of Alexandria’s senior population has grown to over 22,000 individuals — and more than 5,000 of these older adults live alone. Stories from Senior Services of Alexandria’s (SSA) Meals on Wheels volunteers often detail arriving at a client’s home to find them ill, injured or in need of urgent medical attention. It is fortunate that these volunteers can be the “eyes and ears” of the community coming to the senior’s aid, but all involved are left to ask what more could have been done to prevent these serious problems.
In 2018, SSA launched a bold initiative called Caring Connection — a proactive program designed to bridge the gap between vulnerable older adults and health care professionals who can address issues before they develop into something more serious. Older adults with chronic health conditions or who have been recently discharged from a medical facility are at a high risk of being readmitted because of health and medication issues, falls, or inadequate nutrition. Caring Connection provides daily meal delivery along with personalized health and safety checks managed by dedicated staff. The goal of Caring Connection is to provide nutrition and monitoring to this vulnerable population while sharing critical information to health care professionals in order to reduce the likelihood of hospital readmissions. Older adults will be able to maintain their independence while receiving check-ins, healthy meals, and guidance in the comfort of their own home.
Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center saw the importance of this service and in early January of this 2019 partnered with SSA to offer Caring Connection to its clients when they return home from rehab.
“As the healthcare landscape continues to change, we need to adapt to that change. Transitional Care Management from one level of healthcare to another has become more vital. Woodbine cares about our patients and once it’s time for them to discharge to home after rehab, having the opportunity to activate the Caring Connection Program adds another level of safety for our patients beyond our walls,” said Donna Shaw, Administrator of Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. “Implementing this program has been just one of the steps we have taken to stay ahead of the curve with the growing needs of Transitional Care. We have been thrilled (and so have our patients) with the positive outcomes.”
In the last several months, Senior Services has provided daily meal delivery and check-ins to 20 older adults with positive results. Caring Connection staff have been able to track progress and immediately report changes of condition to Woodbine social workers. In addition, SSA provides Woodbine monthly reports summarizing all client deliveries and condition reports.
The daughter of a City of Alexandria resident who recently benefited from the Woodbine and Caring Connection program said, “Caring Connection is a wonderful program that Woodbine Rehab and Healthcare has available to those that are discharged home from rehab. The meals filled in the gap, and allowed my mother to have good nutrients during her transition back to home, and getting back into her routine.”
The momentum for the program is growing and SSA is looking forward to expanding the service with Woodbine as well as other health care facilities.
If you would like to learn more about Caring Connection, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-836-4414, ext. 115.
Nathan Toews is Director of Meal Programs, Senior Services of Alexandria.