Kaiser Permanente Grant Helps Wesley Woods Residents Reduce Falls

April 20, 2019

Residents of Wesley Woods Senior Living communities have experienced fewer falls and hospitalizations thanks to the nonprofit’s wellness program and a grant study whose final results are now being announced. Funded by the Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, the study enabled health staff at Wesley Woods, a collection of senior living communities throughout North Georgia, to reduce the number of falls among residents by 17 percent and the number of hospitalizations by 40 percent.

One such resident, Ms. Cathy, had enjoyed participating in the exercise classes and social activities at the Wesley Woods community where she lived. But, in early 2018, she was hospitalized three separate times due to high blood pressure and related issues. Thanks in part to the Kaiser Permanente grant, a Wesley Woods service coordinator and nurse met with Ms. Cathy and determined the over-the-counter supplements she was taking and other medications were likely interfering with her blood pressure medication. As a result of the coordinated intervention by the nurse and service coordinator, Ms. Cathy better communicates with her doctors about her medications and supplements, has stabilized her blood pressure, lost 10 pounds and has not been readmitted to the hospital since.

Designed to provide an age-specific, outcomes-based wellness program for underserved, low-income senior residents, the $50,000 grant benefited 475 residents at the Wesley Woods Senior Living communities of Asbury Harris Epworth Towers in Fulton County, Branan Towers in DeKalb County and Lanier Gardens in Athens-Clarke County.

“Wesley Woods is committed to using all new and developing best practices to provide the best care possible for our residents,” said Terry Barcroft, president and CEO of Wesley Woods Senior Living. “Thanks to this Kaiser Permanente grant, our team members were able to build on the success of our own wellness program, add the knowledge gained through this grant and implement the findings across all 10 of our communities so all of our residents will benefit.”

“Wesley Woods’ innovative wellness program is designed to foster independent living for our residents for as long as possible,” said Samantha Eaves, wellness director at Wesley Woods Senior Living. “We do this by addressing the primary reasons seniors decline and lose their autonomy and confidence. The wellness program focuses heavily on increasing mobility and balance so that the seniors we serve can remain active.”

“We have a multi-pronged approach to fall reduction – residents have an opportunity to take part in fitness classes to improve strength and flexibility, participate in a “Matter of Balance” support group designed to decrease fear of falling and receive counseling in falls management from onsite wellness nurses,” said Eaves. “We also work to help residents reduce repeat hospitalizations by making sure that they are able to understand hospital discharge instructions and comply with prescriptions. The gains our residents have made through the program have made a real difference in their lives enabling them to thrive and enjoy a much better quality of life.”

According to study data, the new approach exceeded the goals of the grant. Falls and hospitalizations from the first half of the year were compared to the latter half. The grant set a goal of a 15 percent reduction in falls over this time period. From July 2018 through December 2018, falls were reduced by 17 percent. Reduction in hospitalizations was even more significant—a 40 percent decrease, double the goal of the grant. In addition to a reduction in falls and hospitalizations, there was a measured increase in the use of onsite nursing and physical therapy services. Forty-one residents regularly used the services of the nurse and therapy team from January 2018 through December 2018. This number represents 8.4 percent of the residents of Asbury Harris Epworth Towers, Branan Towers and Lanier Gardens.

“Our most significant unanticipated finding was the failure of previous pen-and-paper methods to track falls accurately and completely capture all incidents,” stated Eaves. “With the Kaiser Permanente grant, we were able to purchase cloud-based software and hand-held tablets on which we now record every fall in real time. The incident-capture process is a streamlined, uniform and effective way to record these incidents. As a result, we discovered falls were being under-recorded. We have used this knowledge to formulate the staff-wide, coordinated approach to fall reduction.”

Wesley Woods attributes the positive results during the Kaiser Permanente grant period to a coordinated effort by the internal wellness team to proactively address residents’ health outcomes. Each time a resident fell or was hospitalized, all wellness team staff members were alerted electronically. In the weekly wellness staff meetings the community service coordinator, wellness nurse and life enrichment director addressed the week’s issues and developed the solutions they would each, and as a group, implement to prevent these residents from falling or becoming hospitalized again.

For example, after a resident falls, the wellness nurse works to determine why the resident fell. Working together they address the contributing factors—medication interactions, dizziness from hypertension, etc. The life enrichment director, in turn, encourages the resident to participate in weekly fitness classes to improve their strength and balance and to take part in an eight-week training and support group called “A Matter of Balance” which is designed to decrease a person’s fear of falling and in-turn increase physical activity.

The service coordinator can help acquire a needed walker or cane or connect the resident with agencies who are able to help clean the resident’s apartment and eliminate clutter that might contribute to a fall. Members of the wellness staff work together in a coordinated manner to proactively make the resident safer and less likely to fall.

“The Wesley Woods wellness program has given me back my life,” says Ms. Cathy. “I haven’t been to the hospital in more than a year, and I have the strength and energy to do all the things I like to do. I’m in control again.”

For information about the Wesley Woods Wellness Program visit wesleywoods.org/wellness.

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About Wesley Woods Senior Living
Wesley Woods Senior Living supports healthy aging by helping older adults live independently longer, with a higher quality of life, via resident-centered communities. Founded in 1954 with the mission to assure all older adults age with grace, dignity and purpose, Wesley Woods provides safe, affordable residential housing and support services for older adults throughout North Georgia. It operates 10 residential communities, including five affordable communities, in Atlanta, Augusta, Athens, Blairsville, Roswell and Newnan. Some communities also include a continuum of care including independent living services, assisted living services, memory care and skilled nursing care. For additional information, please visit www.wesleywoods.org.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to shaping the future of health care and is recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of its members and the communities it serves. Care is focused on members’ total health and is guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of health care providers. Expert and caring medical staff are supported by industry-leading technology and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Nationally, Kaiser Permanente serves more than 12.2 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia and operates 39 hospitals and more than 680 medical office buildings. As Georgia’s largest non-profit health plan, Kaiser Permanente has about 330,000 members in 28 counties in metro Atlanta and four counties near Athens. For more information, visit kp.org/Georgia..

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