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A group of elderly people reducing their chances of rehospitalization by stretching as part of one of their therapeutic classes

How Therapeutic Engagement Can Reduce Rehospitalizations

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 25% of Medicare residents living in nursing homes in 2011 were readmitted to a hospital at a total cost of $14 billion. As 2018 approaches, skilled nursing facilities are facing a 2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement if they don’t control their hospital readmission rates, a leading metric in senior care.

It’s time to think about an area often overlooked: the correlation between person-centered engagement strategies and the reduction of rehospitalizations for older adults. Hospital readmissions are a costly problem for both assisted living and nursing home facilities but therapeutic and digitized engagement strategies are truly low cost and high impact when it comes to decreasing the likelihood of this event.

Older adults in long-term care are constantly heading back to the hospital, but why?

1. Many older adults in senior communities are experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). The CDC reported in 2014 that approximately 50% of nursing home residents had been diagnosed with ADRD.

2. ADRD has been shown to increase the risk of falls for older adults. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 26% those over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease will be admitted to a hospital because of a fall.

3. Many antipsychotic drugs commonly prescribed to older adults living with dementia have been found to have negative health consequences, including an increased risk of falls. A cohort study conducted in Canada in 2014 found that atypical antipsychotic medication use by older adults increased their 90-day risk of falls.

How can senior care providers become less reactionary when it comes to readmissions in favor of a more cost-effective, preventative approach?

1. With individualized and digitized therapeutic engagement, senior care providers can meet the needs of residents and provide purposeful activities that increase the quality of life and decrease the need for antipsychotic drugs to manage behaviors associated with ADRD. Last month at the LeadingAge National Conference, Linked Senior presented a case study in partnership with Kendal on Hudson that showed the impact of therapeutic engagement on decrease antipsychotic drug use.

2. Providers can improve communication between staff and family members. Once staff knows how to effectively connect with loved ones, to better understand the biopsychosocial needs of each resident based on their life history, they can more confidently connect those residents to activities that are meaningful to them.

Although the Activities or Life Enrichment Department in senior care is not typically considered a revenue-generating entity, it can certainly be a key piece of the rehospitalization puzzle. Senior care communities that invest in person-directed and individualized engagement strategies can improve their bottom line by decreasing falls, avoiding costly pharmacological interventions and avoiding compliance risks.

December 7, 2017