Nervous about the future, CVNA is getting ready for changing demographics in Colorado

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At the behest of House Bill 15-1033, which passed in 2015, a “multidisciplinary private and public sector stakeholders’’ group to develop a comprehensive strategic action plan on aging through the year 2030” was convened. In short, the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging (SAPGA) was created to figure out how to respond to the challenge of a dramatically expanding 65+ population.

The initial focus of SAPGA was to review the current status of aging in Colorado and then develop a strategic plan to respond to the projected demographic shifts. SAPGA created several subcommittees for the work including the Supportive Services Subcommittee of which I was part. The strategic plan was finalized at the end of 2016 and included a robust set of goals and recommendations for the next several decades. Below is an overview of the initial eight goals from the SAPGA plan released in 2016, which provide the infrastructure of the action plan.

Goal 1: Colorado seniors will be able to live and fully participate in their communities of choice for as long as possible.

Goal 2: Older adults will be able to stay engaged in the labor force and volunteer sector for as long as they want or need.

Goal 3: Colorado seniors and their families will be more financially secure and prepared to meet the challenges of aging.

Goal 4: Coloradans will be prepared for the challenges of caring for aging loved-ones and will be able to do so without endangering their own health or well-being or the health and well-being of the recipient of care.

Goal 5: There will be enough skilled, educated and trained workers, paid commensurate to their abilities and training, to meet the needs of employers and industries serving Colorado’s growing senior population.

Goal 6: Older Coloradans will stay healthier longer through access to quality and affordable person-centered care that aligns with their preferences and values.

Goal 7: All levels of government will meet their commitments to support older Coloradans and their families.

Goal 8: Colorado will empower and protect seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

As you can see, the goals are wide-ranging and cover everything from community living to eliminating abuse and neglect for the elderly. I encourage you to spend time with the actual plan, but in the meantime I want to dig into goals 1, 2, and 6 in greater detail as they most closely align with CVNA’s new mission: CVNA provides the most appropriate range of health care solutions to allow adults to maximize independence and to heal and age at home.

Goal 1 states that Coloradoans should be able to remain in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. One recommended outcome within this goal is the ability for people to access the necessary services and supports to remain in place irrespective of income or geographic location. This is an important point as there is a very large older adult population in Colorado that has too much income and/or too many assets to qualify for Medicaid services that foster safe independence, such as homemaking and personal care, yet not enough income/assets to

afford private pay independence options. Additionally, there are more services and supports available in the Front Range than in rural areas of the state.

CVNA’s updated strategic plan articulates key values, of which the first is to “provide health solutions that enable people to function as independently as possible in their homes and communities.” For CVNA, this means connecting our clients to organizations that address their particular needs, whether it is food, transportation, outpatient therapy, or even facility-based care. For CVNA, this means weaving together care disciplines and developing creative collaborations with other community organizations such as we’ve done in our CAPABLE program which I wrote about earlier in 2017.

Goal 2 focuses on the need for people to remain productive members of society as long as possible whether as paid employees or as volunteers. Having a place to go, a job to perform, and most importantly a value to provide has been shown to dramatically improve a person’s happiness regardless of age. At CVNA we developed an incredibly dedicated, multitalented volunteer corps comprised of over 300 individuals, of which nearly 60% are older adults. They lend their talents and skills to assist with registration at footcare clinics, provide respite care in our hospice program, or perform administrative tasks in our office. Further, within our foot care clinics we’ve cultivated a nurse team that largely consists of clinicians on their second or third career and who have vast experience in public health, acute care, and other highly specialized and challenging clinical settings.

However, there is much more that CVNA can do to attract these highly specialized and accomplished professionals who are seeking meaningful work in lieu of traditional retirement during their later years. An excellent place to start is applying our learning from recruiting older clinicians to our recruitment needs for accounting, insurance, marketing, construction and other administrative functions. CVNA has a continual need to locate talent that is passionate about home-based independence, and those in the second half of their career looking for greater personal meaning and social impact can beautifully fill these roles.

Of all of the goals in the SAPGA plan, goal 6 has the most direct connection with the work that CVNA does and our new strategic plan. Goal 6 focuses on allowing people to stay healthier longer in a way that is aligned with a person’s individual goals rather than existing constraints placed by the current health system and regulatory environment. Key strategies include providing access to coordinated and cost-effective care specifically focused on making transitions between care settings. As I wrote about in this blog post, there are many organizations across the care continuum that are trying to solve individual problems in care and support, but too often these efforts are not connected. It is quite common for a patient to be in any one of the hospitals in Colorado and have a discharge planner who may not have the resources or familiarity to connect the patient to available home-based services and supports. We participate in several transitions of care consortiums and are currently working on a partnership with Easterseals and Project Angel Heart to help safely transition stable stroke patients from an acute care setting into the home by surrounding them with transportation assistance, medically tailored meals, home-based rehabilitation, and group-based outpatient therapy. This partnership is just the beginning of several strategies that CVNA is working on to create more coordinated, safe, and patient-centered care.

There remains much to do to prepare Colorado for the coming demographic shift. Fortunately, SAPGA is at the forefront of the effort to address the challenges of a surging older adult population, and they are joined by CVNA as well as many other organizations and initiatives who will help care for Coloradans in the coming decades.