Healthcare reform already driving diverse, dynamic long-term care models, LeadingAge leaders say

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Leading Age Hackfest winners and runners-up celebrated at Monday's General Session.
Leading Age Hackfest winners and runners-up celebrated at Monday's General Session.

One way to gauge the effects of healthcare reform is by looking at ongoing changes to the continuing care retirement community model, LeadingAge officials declared Monday at the association's annual conference in Nashville.

“CCRC is the longest-standing, most successful managed care plan in the country,” LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix said at a press briefing. “People don't think of it that way, but it is.”

He noted that the earliest CCRCs were developed 150 years ago to provide care for aging widows as well as for orphans. Those services separated, but they now are coming together again, Minnix noted. He cited Wellspring Lutheran Services in Michigan, led by LeadingAge Chairman David Gehm, as one example.

This is only one of many potential CCRC variations, which Minnix sees increasing. “The future of it is in having a variety of financing models that allow people more flexibility, because the customer today is more mobile and flexible and discerning," he said. To this end, providers are exploring ways to “pitch” CCRCs toward lower income brackets, he explained.

The strictly campus-based CCRC experience also is changing. Minnix described the growing popularity of incorporating home care. Senior Vice President for Research Robyn Stone, M.D., echoed this point.

Addressing Monday's General Session, Stone described the crucial role that frontline caregivers play in helping consumers access the array of services available to them. She told the story of a care manager in Camden, NJ, who engaged with someone living a reclusive life in an apartment in order to help him manage his diabetes and take part in social interactions. This work should not be viewed strictly through the lens of home care, she told McKnight's after the General Session. Affordable Care Act changes reward high quality care across the whole continuum, so this type of involvement should continue if the individual moves into an institutional environment. The model might be termed “a CCRC without walls,” she said.

Also on Monday, the Institute of Medicine announced that Stone has been elected a member. Saying she is “honored,” Stone added that she is now one of the only IOM members with special expertise in long-term care. She is one of 70 newly elected members chosen by existing members, many of whom are physicians.

The General Session keynote speaker was Harvard University's Ellen Langer, Ph.D. She spoke about the concept of mindfulness, a field she pioneered. One of her famous early experiments showed that nursing home residents lived longer if they were given a plant to care for, which increased their mindfulness by requiring decision making.

The winners of the second annual HackFest also were announced at the General Session. Team Excite won the $5,000 grand prize. Team member Lauren Sims, a master of health services administration candidate at The George Washington University, accepted the trophy. The team created a way to help prevent falls by analyzing a person's gait via the Xbox Kinect gaming system.

The LeadingAge annual convention, the country's largest gathering of long-term care providers, will conclude on Wednesday.