Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., CEO

Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., CEO

After providing in-home health services to persons with disabilities in the Pikes Peak region for over thirty years, we decided to stretch our reach further into healthcare. We asked ourselves a few questions. Is it accessible and useable by persons with a wide range of disabilities? Can we “disrupt” the pipeline of people with disabilities going into nursing homes after being in the hospital? Why don’t more people with disabilities use primary care anyway? That might be able to prevent a trip to the hospital or emergency room… What is it with healthcare and people with disabilities?

Over the years, we have conducted several focus groups in our community to learn about barriers. A consistent barrier we heard about was “I can’t get on the table, nor can I get weighed!” And we also heard “The medical staff are uncomfortable around me, and that makes me uncomfortable.” As a result, The IC Fund purchased a hi-low able with weight scale and other accessibility features for Mission Medical Center late last year. In fact, there is an article in this edition of the Independence Times on page 3 that talks about this collaboration. The IC Fund Committee saw what a difference the addition of this accessible table made and decided that we need more Medicaid primary care providers to be accessible for people with disabilities. So in June, we kicked off a campaign to purchase accessible exam tables, Hoyer-style lifts, and hearing loop system to install in primary care providers’ offices. As part of the process, ADA site audits and disability etiquette training will be provided to ensure better accessibility and understanding for people with disabilities. We asked people with disabilities who are on Medicaid or Medicare to nominate their primary care provider, who would receive this accessible exam room equipment. By the time you read this, the contest will be over, but you can http://bit.ly/theicaccessiblehealth to get an update. By the end of the year, we should have all awardees identified and best of all, a map of where all the accessible medical equipment is located. Check the page often and go get a complete health exam – please!

Our community transition program, the one that works to get people out of nursing homes, often finds that a fair number of people in nursing homes don’t really need to be there! The lack of affordable, accessible housing is such a problem, that it takes significant time for people to transition out. This started us thinking about how we might disrupt the flow of people going into nursing homes from the hospital in the first place. Often, it is a medication administration problem, or a cooking/cleaning problem, or an understanding/managing diabetes problem. No one should go to a nursing home for those reasons! So we put together the Hospital to Home pilot program to see if we could change this phenomenon. In May of this year, we started the pilot program at UC Health Memorial Hospital Central, and I am happy to report that we have redirected four people back home, who were on their way to the nursing home. With our Home Health staff, the Independent Living staff, and 4 to 5 community agencies or for-profit providers, we are able to support these individuals so they can recover at home. The IL staff provide a bridge for getting back into community life after their hospital stay.