Enhancing Senior Wellness

In an effort to improve senior wellness and health in the region, a telehealth pilot program is being launched in Connecticut.  According to Chairman of the New Canaan Health and Human Services Commission, Jim Lisher, there will be 50 participants in the program. Equipping seniors with customized mobile technology, in the fall, the 10 elderly individuals living in New Canaan will be given iPads or Acer tablets to enable them to communicate with a nurse a few times a week.  This way – it is hoped – they will be able to remain in their homes rather than having to be put into care.

As well as having teleconferencing abilities, pilot program participants will be given medical equipment to monitor their weight, blood pressure and heart rate; information that will thereafter be given to the nurse who will also take a general overview of the patient’s overall wellness.

It is fitting that this pilot program will take place in New Canaan since 75 percent of adults living there fall into the senior category.  Thus it is hoped that this program will alleviate the pressure on hospitals and nursing homes.  In addition, enabling the elderly to stay at home is much cheaper on the system, and better in general for senior wellness.  In terms of finances, like many cities in the US, over 50 percent of healthcare in New Canaan is spent on preventable diseases that result from diet, smoking and overall bad lifestyle choices.  Telehealth programs may have the potential to serve as preventative measures and thus reduce the overall cost of healthcare as well as enhancing senior wellness.

The concept of senior wellness at home is not a new one.  Indeed, the villages regions of Florida, boasts a Telemonitoring program as part of its Senior Home Care package, launched in the summer of 2012.  Like the telehealth program soon to be piloted in New Canaan this one was set up to “monitor home health patients under their care who are high-risk and have chronic conditions, such as chronic heart failure.”  As well, the program combines clinical home health visits with telephonic intervention which have, through studies, been shown to enhance senior wellness and decrease the amount of hospital readmissions.

While these programs are not cheap – the one in New Canaan is $24,000 – ultimately the long-term savings and overall senior wellness have been shown in other such programs to be worth the initial monies required.