James M. Berklan

In today’s rough-and-tumble world of healthcare delivery, it pays to have many friends, both upstream and downstream. Or as an old adage puts it, there is strength in numbers.

At least one long-term care association is betting on it.

LeadingAge is extending its reach by affiliating with the Visiting Nurse Association of America and ElevatingHOME. That means the second-largest association of long-term care providers is adding clinical expertise through a nurses group and an entity with additional home care gravitas (including hospice and palliative care),  ElevatingHome.

The move aligns with the federal government’s constant push to move frail elderly individuals out of acute- and skilled-care facilities and into more home- and community-based care options.

It’s what you call covering your bases, something LeadingAge has done well for many years. From HUD housing to continuing care retirement communities to rehab and skilled care operators, and more, LeadingAge runs the gamut.

Shoring up home care competencies seems to make a lot of sense.

“We anticipate significant and exciting opportunities for all members will result,” LeadingAge CEO and President Katie Smith Sloan told McKnight’s.

Pending formal approval by VNAA/EH members, individuals will enjoy joint membership in the the groups. In addition, in the coming weeks, VNAA/EH staff will move from office space in Alexandria, VA, into Leading Age’s nearby Washington headquarters.

Negotiations began last year and LeadingAge members were made aware of the merger late last month. Now a public awareness campaign is underway with the deed all but finalized.

In less than two weeks, the players will have a good opportunity to get better acquainted face-to-face. The groups will be holding big meetings at the same place at the same time. LeadingAge’s newly remade spring summit takes place March 17-20 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, while VNAA/EH will be holding its National Leadership Conference there March 18-19.

“For LeadingAge, the affiliation continues our longstanding commitment to representing members across the full continuum of care, building influence and potential for impact,” Smith Sloan told McKnight’s. “Our members gain access to the expertise and benefits of VNAA/EH, including clinical expertise, top-notch educational resources, and collaborative networking opportunities, both virtual and in-person.”

For its part, VNAA/EH will gain access to resources in advocacy, education and research, including the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston for the last.

A big part of the unity push is the groups’ mutual interest in mission-based work and advocacy. Shared interests include support for the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act which was passed in the last Congress and reintroduced in this one, as well as the Medicare Advantage Demonstration announced by CMS on January 18.

Now that a downstream partner has been added, one has to think LeadingAge will concentrate on further solidifying relationships upstream as well. There can be strength in numbers, but it helps to have them coming from all directions.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.