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How Elder Medical Care Services Can Help Your Loved One


Amy Lynch for GBMC

September 13, 2019
As the health of older adults deteriorates due to illness and physical or mental decline, the ability to get out of the house to see a doctor becomes more limited. Elder medical care services fill the gap by bringing health care to the patient at home.

What is elder medical care?

Gilchrist, a nationally recognized, nonprofit leader specializing in end-of-life care and GBMC affiliate, delivers elder medical care through a group of programs geared toward individuals living with serious illnesses who need coordinated care in their home settings.

“Elder medical care is the name we give to the geriatric portion of our practice, focusing generally on people who are 75 or older with complex medical issues that put them at higher risk for complications and decline,” says Aaron Charles, MD, geriatrician and Medical Director of Gilchrist's Elder Medical Care at Home program.

Some of the services available through Gilchrist’s Elder Medical Care programs include home visits from a physician or nurse practitioner with options for mobile radiology, lab studies, limited cardiac testing and physical therapy; in addition to office-based visits, long-term health management and rehab with support from other doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and administrative staff.

“We visit patients in their homes and in various acute-care, long-term, rehabilitation and assisted-living facilities,” Dr. Charles adds. “We also provide geriatric consultation for providers within our community to review patient care and make appropriate recommendations.”

Is elder medical care the same as senior care?

Elder medical care is just one aspect of the greater senior care umbrella of services.

“Senior care can refer to any services that aid or assist older adults who need help at home with the activities of everyday living like bathing and dressing, laundry, meal preparation or errands,” says Gilchrist nurse practitioner and Elder Medical Care program team lead Beverly Ruiz. “Our services focus on providing medical care in the home. As the primary care provider, we may make referrals to other services depending on what the patient’s needs are.”

How is elder medical care different from hospice?

Hospice care focuses on patients who are in the end stages of disease with life expectancies of six months or less, while elder medical care can be delivered for a longer period of time and is ongoing as long as the patient needs care.

“Patients go into hospice when treatment is no longer effective and all options have been exhausted,” Ruiz says. “The main difference is in the prognosis and timing, but hospice also offers a more inclusive span of support than elder medical care, with chaplains, volunteers, nurses, social workers, home health aides, music therapy, bereavement support and other services available.”

Although most Gilchrist elder medical care patients are not hospice patients, some will enroll in hospice as their conditions progress in order to maintain the best quality of life for as long as they can. Alternatively, the Elder Medical Care program may receive patients who have been discharged from hospice after their conditions improve, but are still homebound.

“Palliative care can and should be administered anytime someone is diagnosed with a terminal or incurable disease, and can begin years before hospice is appropriate with the goal of following the patient throughout their treatment to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support,” Dr. Charles notes.

Is elder medical care right for you?

To be eligible for Gilchrist Elder Medical Care services, patients must be homebound and experiencing progressive, debilitating illness for which treatment is becoming increasingly ineffective, or facing continuing health crises with difficult-to-manage symptoms.

Billing for elder medical care is similar to a regular doctor visit. Gilchrist accepts Medicare and Medicaid, most insurance plans and private payment.
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