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Program will offer freedom to seniors

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002

Some local organizations are trying to keep getting older from meaning becoming dependent.

The Heritage Valley Health System and the Valley Care Association are attempting to ease the burdens that come with old age, and they're doing it for free.

They are partners with a new program called "80 and Beyond," an attempt to increase the independence of people ages 80 and older.

Dr. Daniel Brooks, chief medical officer for Heritage Valley Health System, said change and dependence are hard issues for this age group to deal with.

"That dependence may be physical, intellectual, emotional, financial or spiritual, " Brooks said. "The thrust of the program is to provide the greatest degree of independence possible for those 80 and older."

Participants will be selected by doctor referrals and interviews. The Heritage Valley Health System operates Sewickley Valley Hospital in Sewickley and The Medical Center in Beaver, and participants must be patients of doctors with privileges at one of those hospitals.

Valley Care Association, based in Aleppo Township, is funding the project with a $100,000 grant over a two-year period. Depending on the results of the program, Valley Care officials might donate another $50,000 for a third year.

Brooks said the goal of the program is to educate the participants in ways that reduce hospital re-admissions by 10 percent and increase their adherence to their medication regimes by 80 percent.

Brooks hopes the project will become a model project in the medical community.

"We will study the ongoing results of the program with the hope that the program can serve as a model for the nation," he said.

Danielle Borghi, manager of Heritage Valley case management services, anticipates 150 people participating in the program each year.

"We want to surround participants with the supportive services necessary to achieve and maintain independence," she said.

Some of those services include managing medications, coordinating care and initiating disease management programs, Borghi said.

"It's individually based, but we're focused on keeping this population in their homes as long as possible," she said. "Our interest is in a lot of medication management, to make sure they're taking their medications properly."

The program will consist of four steps:

  • Identifying eligible participants.

  • Prioritizing people according to their needs.

  • Having geriatric nurses and social workers provide services.

  • Evaluations and follow up.

    Brooks said the volume of older people in the region alone validates the need for the program.

    "Recognizing the prevalence of older people in western Pennsylvania, and especially in our service area, we are delighted to have received the funding to undertake this program," he said.

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