By Chris Lee, President and CEO
The State of Colorado is grappling with one of the fastest growing older adult populations in the country. The Colorado State Demography Office estimates [that the] “aging of the younger population, especially the ’Baby Boomers’ …, is forecast to increase the population over 65 by 150% between 2010 and 2030.” The numbers will grow from 550,000 people over 65 in 2010 to 1.2 million in 2030.
Fortunately, Colorado is not leaving future administrations to deal with the challenges. Our State has created the Strategic Action Group on Aging, in addition to other initiatives, to get out in front of aging-related challenges. The Group’s initial ideas on how to address the challenges associated with a rapidly aging population are detailed in the Colorado Aging Framework, which includes 10 distinct goals that the State aims to achieve. Colorado VNA is a leading partner in the efforts to support the needs of older adults. We are evolving existing services and creating deep partnerships with a variety of stakeholders to position ourselves as a critical provider of older adult services.
In particular, three of the Aging Framework goals directly relate to our work:
- Goal 3: Strengthen support systems and environments that enable individuals to remain in their homes and communities as they age.
- Goal 5: Support health care programs and services that provide a continuum of care to Colorado citizens as they age to give individuals the right services at the right time.
- Goal 7: Promote support for caregivers, including family caregivers, to support citizens as they age
Goal 3 articulates several strategies that are focused on strengthened supportive services for older adults so that they can remain in their homes and communities, one of which “make home-maker services available to support individuals’ ability to remain in their homes as long as possible” is superbly aligned with our current work. Just this past week, I traveled with one of our Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Dennis, to visit two of our veterans in their homes. Dennis visits each of these patients several times a week to help with bathing, ensuring that the care plan is implemented, and providing patient and family support. In addition to Dennis, Colorado VNA provides homemakers for these two patients as well. Our homemakers help the patients and families keep their homes clean and safe while also helping with laundry and other household tasks, activities that many of us take for granted even as our ability to conduct them declines with age. Goal 3 seeks to implement similar support functions for those individuals that may not have the resources to pay for private-pay homemakers and/or CNA services. The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) has long funded Colorado VNA to provide homemaker services to low-income and vulnerable adults, and Goal 3 seeks to provide even more support to DRCOG and ultimately Colorado VNA.
Goal 5 takes Goal 3 further by identifying strategies to more closely connect homemaker services that are supported by DRCOG to primary care providers. Both of the patients I visited are veterans, and the VA has long understood the importance of connecting skilled nursing and therapy care with paraprofessional care while under physician supervision. Goal 5 seeks to create the same connections between the primary care community and the long-term services and supports (LTSS) community. Additionally, Goal 5 provides direction to study the connection between LTSS and decreasing overall healthcare cost. In summary, the State hopes to answer the question: Do the homemaker services Colorado VNA provides decrease overall healthcare spending, and if so, by how much? To this end, I have been appointed to a guiding committee that will help implement the study that will answer this question.
And finally, Goal 7 seeks to provide more financial support and training for family caregivers as well as other non-family caregivers. Those of you who have cared for an elderly parent know just how difficult, time-consuming, and stressful it is to provide the necessary care to keep your loved one in the home, especially if you must also work outside the home to earn a living. Goal 7 seeks to find ways to provide more support and guidance for family and friend caregiving. Though not an area we are currently operating within, Colorado VNA has the capabilities to train caregivers, as well as the necessary clinical oversight, to be a viable part of the solution for an expanded family- and friend-based caregiving network. In addition to supporting family caregivers, Goal 7 also acknowledges the need for more expansive wellness services for the elderly, services like our Senior Medical Foot Care run by our Wellness Division.
As you can see, there is much change in the aging landscape in Colorado. Thanks to the innovative and compassionate care of our staff, Colorado VNA is well positioned to be a part of an expanded Colorado strategy to respond to a dramatically growing elderly population.
 Department of Local Affairs, State Demography Office, July 2012, page 1