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Affordable housing provider linking with aged, health services

Ingenia's Marsden Gardens among the sites where its care assist program operates

Ingenia’s Marsden Gardens among the sites where its care assist program operates

The move toward service integrated housing for seniors continues to gain ground in Australia, with one of the largest providers of affordable seniors housing rolling out a ‘care concierge’ program to link residents with health and aged care services.

Ingenia says the program is in place across its 34 Garden Villages, having been piloted at four sites from October 2013 and launched in February 2014. Over 320 residents have since used the service, which provides advice, advocacy and care coordination, said Janene Eagleton, general manager of care development at Ingenia.

The provider is now trialling the program at four of its Active Lifestyle Estates and intends to roll it out across that portfolio of 20 ‘lifestyle parks’ consisting of 2,800 homes.

The Ingenia Care Assist program was among the emerging models presented at the National Service Integrated Housing Conference in Queensland this week.

As Australian Ageing Agenda has reported, independent living operators are increasingly seeking to provide health and aged services within their villages – often through partnerships – in order to meet consumer preferences for a so-called continuum of care.

Janene Eagleton

Janene Eagleton

Initially Ingenia’s new service was designed to improve the occupancy of its rental villages, which had no support services except for meals, by attracting clients who were looking for additional support, Ms Eagleton told Australian Ageing Agenda ahead of her presentation.

The service, which was free to residents, connected residents to health, aged care and wellbeing services using local care providers. This ranged from primary care, GP and allied health referrals through to domestic assistance, transport and social connection, Ms Eagleton said.

“We act like a relative in some ways but because we’re knowledgeable of the health and aged care systems we’re able to effectively navigate and get the best deal for our residents,” she said.

The team, which is staffed by a registered nurse and a case manager, has connections with local discharge planners, ACATs, social workers, aged care providers, acute care and allied health professionals in the region, Ms Eagleton said.

The team conducts an initial assessment with the resident to determine the range of services they may need. They then write a referral plan and contact the local ACAT or relevant service for an assessment and approval, providing them with the client’s information.

“In the referral plan we might agree that the resident will have a physio assessment for their gait and mobility; they might need to see a pharmacist for a home medication review, to undertake an ACAT assessment, and to attend a strength and balance clinic,” she said.

The team stays in touch with the resident to ensure services commence on time, and they conduct six monthly follow-up visits of ‘complex care’ residents and annual visits of ‘basic entry care’ residents, she said.

The Ingenia Care Assist program connects residents to health and aged care services

The Ingenia Care Assist program connects residents to health and aged care services

“That is generally a visit to their unit to see how they’re coping…At that time if they or we believe more services are needed we can go back and arrange for that to happen,” said Ms Eagleton.

The service was particularly necessary in the seniors’ rental villages, where many residents were either geographically estranged from their families or had complex social histories that resulted in family disengagement, she said. “A lot of these residents really have no one to go to.”

Because the team stayed in touch with the clients, they were essentially able to guide them through the notoriously complex health and aged care systems. “We’re finding that often none of these services connect with each other, so often services are doubled up…It’s an opportunity for us to do a bit of a review of everything that the residents are getting.”

In addition to supporting the residents, the program also had benefits for the providers and healthcare professionals. “It works really well for both sides. For us we maintain those active relationships with the providers we have confidence in, in terms of quality and availability of services. [For providers] it enables them to have a free-flow of referrals.”

Ms Eagleton, who was brought in to Ingenia to develop and run the program having held senior management positions in providers such as Australian Unity and Catholic Healthcare, said that integrated services would be increasingly common.

“It’s going to be the way of the future. Partnerships with service providers, connecting care and delivering a range of services that really meet the residents’ needs is what we need to be about,” she said.

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