Paramedicine: A Healthcare Innovation Benefiting Aging in Place Seniors

Is your senior aging in place and living independently?

Does it worry you that they are alone too much?

Do they have medical conditions that you are afraid may put them at risk for trouble when they are home alone?

Would they benefit from a program that can solve this problem, ease your worry and keep your senior healthy too while aging in place?

Paramedicine: A Valuable Program for Seniors

Recently we learned about a program developed by EMS personnel who noticed that they received ongoing calls from seniors living alone who called 911 for non-emergency help because they knew they would get a response. That’s not the intent of 911 systems, of course, but rather than taking the route of stopping the behavior these heroes decided to address the problem.

From that identified need, a new program emerged. A group of EMS personnel visit seniors in the area regularly providing preventive healthcare to seniors who don’t often leave their homes and have no close family caregivers. Because these seniors didn’t get out to see the doctor, their need for healthcare checks, chronic disease monitoring and even socialization was great and often unmet.

In addition to checking their health status, the paramedics would check on whether the seniors were eating and if they were staying active physically.

Benefits of the Paramedicine Program

The 911 calls from these seniors were cut in half since the program began. In addition, the hospitalization rate for these vulnerable seniors has also been dramatically reduced.

This program demonstrated once again a lesson we relearn through our lives: prevention pays off!

Seniors who are now seen regularly by the paramedics have taken their name off waiting lists for nursing homes because this additional support has allowed them remain at home safely.

This program has estimated that it saved the health care cost of government sponsored nursing home admissions for these seniors to the tune of $1.6 million.

Community Paramedicine

The program is called community paramedicine and is spreading to other locales as a best practice. The theme of the program is to connect underserved people in the community, especially fragile seniors. It connects people with preventive medicine where the access to a healthcare team is limited by remoteness. For our seniors, this could mean transportation, but it also is filling the gap in rural areas where long distance travel is required to get care for all ages.

First responders are trained to meet the needs of people they serve. These are some of the services many are able to provide:

  • Wellness interventions and advice
  • Health screening assessments and ongoing health monitoring
  • Health education
  • Immunizations
  • Chronic disease management such as diabetes
  • Mental health assistance (increased socialization, reducing isolation, depression prevention)
  • Wound care and treatment
  • Safety programs by observing the home setting and risk intervention

This type of program can provide immeasurable benefits not only for our seniors who wish to remain in their homes but also for family caregivers who worry about their safety.

It requires community support and funding in order to become a reality for our vulnerable seniors. That issue may be difficult for many to overcome, especially since the savings that results from preventive care is typically realized by someone other than the local community of the paramedicine program.

Paramedicine might just be the right answer for many communities, though, so we encourage the study and creation of this program and, where the programs already exist, continued support to meet the needs of our seniors.

Does your community have this type of program? We would love to share your success stories and suggestions for those who want to start one where they live!

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