Health monitoring reduces hospitalizations, turnover of affordable housing residents

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A resident served by Lutheran Senior Services uses a telehealth kiosk. (Photo courtesy of LSS)
A resident served by Lutheran Senior Services uses a telehealth kiosk. (Photo courtesy of LSS)

Use of an on-site telehealth kiosk and weekly nurse consultations have cut resident hospitalizations by one-third, reduced resident moves to higher levels of care by 11% and decreased resident turnover by 6% at affordable housing properties operated by Lutheran Senior Services, according to the organization.

Additionally, the more than 750 low-income participants in LSS's Project Wellness report being more knowledgeable about their vital signs and the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure, weight and heart rate, and 49% say they have exercised more since starting the program, organization representatives say.

“Project Wellness underscores the benefit of proactive and personal wellness offerings to older adults,” said Susan Hutchinson, LSS executive director of affordable housing. “The innovation of this program is the pairing of technology with the human touch, which is making a real and sustainable difference in the lives of low-income older adults.”

LSS launched the interactive program, funded by a grant from the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, in 2012 as a pilot at one of its affordable housing communities. Since then, the organization has expanded it to all nine LSS affordable housing communities, all of which are apartments subsidized through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program. Eight of the communities are in Missouri, and one is in Illinois. The program also is offered to more than 200 older adults living in areas immediately surrounding these communities.

The program pairs an on-site telehealth kiosk with a parish nurse — also known as a faith community nurse — for consultation one day per week to monitor the weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and feelings of isolation and depression of any resident wishing to participate.

“As faith-inspired practitioners, a parish nurse can look at the whole person. Sometimes the healing is an emotional or spiritual thing as well as a physical one,” Hutchinson told McKnight's Senior Living. “Our nurses will pray with residents if that is what the resident wants, and can give them guidance when needed. The physical aspects of wellness are extremely important, but so are the emotional and spiritual components of it. That's why we chose to use parish nurses.”

The tracking of health data allows residents to have a documented history of their vital signs to share with their physicians, according to LSS, and the data also help identify health trends that can be addressed through additional wellness programming.

The American Association of Service Coordinators named Project Wellness its Affordable Housing Innovative Program of the Year on Sept. 27 at its annual conference in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

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