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The program is serving more than 100 patients on Long Island, in Westchester County and in parts of New York City. “The demand is very strong and we’re in the process of hiring another 20 therapists,” said Nina DePaola, Northwell’s vice president of post-acute services.
Sabaa Mundia, a physical therapist working with the Amilicias, said Mary Louise can walk up to 400 feet without a walker, after doing strengthening exercises twice a week over the course of three weeks. Frank had been using a wheelchair and is now regularly walking 150 feet with a walker after more than a month of therapy.
“Older adults can lose about 20% of their muscle mass if they don’t walk for up to five days,” Mundia said. “And their endurance decreases, their stamina decreases, and their range of motion decreases.”
Recognizing that risk, some health plans have been reaching out to older members to assess how they’re faring. In Massachusetts, Commonwealth Care Alliance serves more than 10,000 older adults who are poor and eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, the federal-state program for people with low incomes. On average, they tend to have more medical needs than similarly aged seniors.
Between March and September last year, the plan’s staffers conducted “wellness outreach assessments” by phone every two weeks, asking about ongoing medical care, new physical and emotional challenges, and the adequacy of available help, among other concerns. Today, calls are made monthly and staffers have resumed seeing members in person.
An increase in physical deconditioning is one of the big issues that have emerged. “We’ve had physical therapists digitally engage with members to coach them through strength and balance training,” said Dr. Robert MacArthur, a geriatrician and Commonwealth Care’s chief medical officer. “And when that didn’t work, we sent therapists into people’s homes.”
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