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Calif. health plan tackles senior isolation

May 17, 2017
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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CareMore, a physician-founded provider system and health plan that includes Medicare Advantage beneficiaries across seven states, is launching an initiative to help older adults battle isolation and get better together.

The organization’s Togetherness Program is designed to raise awareness of the social isolation challenges seniors face and bring them to the forefront of clinical discussions. The kick-off campaign, “Be in the Circle: Be Connected,” brings the topics and issues of senior loneliness into the clinical setting and makes them part of every patient’s treatment plan. Based on risk-factor screening, CareMore has identified 1,100 seniors in its health plan as candidates for the initial rollout and plans to add more as the benefits are studied.

“We must engage in conversations with patients to unmask and destigmatize the issue of loneliness,” says Zubin J. Eapin, MD, CareMore’s Chief Medical Officer, in a BusinessWire article. “By viewing loneliness as we would any other chronic condition or disease, it becomes possible to develop solutions and prescribe treatment strategies to effectively address this ailment and improve patient lives across the country.”

Loneliness and isolation affect almost half of adults over age 65, yet few clinical programs tackle them head on as medical factors affecting treatment outcomes. Depression and loneliness also are known risk factors for health and cognitive decline and can exacerbate other existing chronic conditions.

“Despite the fact that loneliness is a common emotional distress syndrome with a high risk factor for early mortality and a broad variety of physical health and psychiatric issues, it still gets little attention in medical training or in health care more generally,” says CareMore President Sachin H. Jain. “It is critical we address the physical, psychological and social well-being of aging seniors, and the Togetherness Program is an important first step in addressing the widespread issue of senior loneliness.”

Program leaders are hoping outcomes will result in reduced admission rates and shorter length of stay as well as better treatment outcomes for its seniors, says Robin Caruso, LCSW, the program’s Chief Togetherness Officer, who has spent two decades working with seniors facing dementia and end-of-life care. “Our initial efforts are focused on building personal connections with at-risk patients through consistent and positive engagement. We will tailor and expand our offerings based on what we learn patients need the most.”

CareMore’s program will be featured at the Foundation for Art & Healing’s inaugural Creatively Connected Conference and Film Festival in New York City on May 9.

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