David Parker, president, ProMedica HCR ManorCare, tells Provider that the organization’s Meals-to-Go program to ensure patients who are discharged to home from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) have enough food to eat has been such a success that it will go national at all of the company’s SNFs by the end of 2020.
Speaking on the sidelines of ProMedica’s and AARP’s Ending Senior Isolation: A Summit on Healthy Aging in Washington, D.C., Parker says ProMedica has made food security a priority issue among the broader framework of improving the social determinants of health (SDOH) for its patients.
HCR ManorCare became part of ProMedica some 15 months ago and will soon be known as The Health and Aging Division of ProMedica, Parker says.
On food security, or insecurity as it is also addressed, he says the issue, like others in the area of SDOH, was not something discussed much until the organization began to explore the opportunities to help improve lives of its senior population who may be lacking in basics like food, transportation, social interaction, and access to care.
“Food insecurity was a real ‘ah ha’ moment for me as we began to learn more about SDOH,” Parker says.
For example, he says an individual admitted into an acute care facility may spend up to a week there on average before being discharged possibly to the post-acute care setting, where they may reside for another 20 to 30 days before being discharged to home. For those going home alone, there “is not a real good chance” they have unspoiled food to eat when they make that transition, Parker says.
“They may not have family close by who can deliver food to them. This really hit home to me as my wife and I went through this recently with my mother-in-law, and we asked, ‘how does she get the food?’”
Within ProMedica the answer to that question was provided by a younger staffer working for Parker who came up with the Meals-to-Go program, which will see the provider give a patient leaving for home two meals to help them make it through the first 48 hours of being home again.
In addition, ProMedica will connect the former patient with a monitoring program that will either deliver more food or connect them to the local resources that can.
“It is such an amazing program, and the feedback has been so phenomenal that we will be rolling it out nationally,” Parker says. ProMedica HCR ManoCare is the largest not-for-profit SNF provider in the country with 175 facilities in 27 states, not including an additional 55 assisted living communities (Arden Courts Memory Care Communities) in 11 states, and a vast network of hospice and home care resources as well.
On the more general topic of the summit—social isolation, Parker says ProMedica sees real opportunity not only in tackling the problem for its seniors population in facilities across the country but also in working as a partner with groups like AARP to delve deeper into finding solutions.
He was part of a presentation titled, A New Model for Healthy Aging, sharing time with Holly Bristoll, chief integration officer of academic affiliations at the Institute for Healthy Aging, ProMedica.
She told the audience that it is key to see how social isolation can be addressed through the connections to health care. So many health risks, such as chronic conditions or depression, are exacerbated by social isolation, Bristoll said.
One of the ways to assess social isolation is to look at healthy aging as a person progresses through life by figuring in factors like physical and emotional well-being; SDOH such as housing and transportation; and access to primary care, hospitals, and long term care.
Taking these ideas on how to aid those seniors who are isolated is vital to keeping them healthy, said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation, who also spoke at the summit. She said social isolation affects nearly one in five older adults.
The problem is definitely a health issue, Ryerson said, pointing to research showing that negative health effects of chronic isolation and loneliness are especially harmful for people over 50 and associated with higher blood pressure, greater risk of heart disease, increased susceptibility to the flu, and earlier onset of dementia.
Social isolation, she said, is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.