Veterans Benefits: Paying for Senior Care

When Mom or Dad reach retirement age and are in need of ongoing assisted living services from professional caretakers, it can sometimes be difficult to find the best way to pay for it. But for many seniors who are also veterans, spouses of veterans, or surviving spouses of veterans, the VA’s Aid & Attendance pension benefit can bridge the financial gap to make this kind of care more affordable.

Even though around one out of every four US seniors would likely qualify for the Aid & Assistance program, only around one in seven who qualify have actually claimed their benefits. There are two main reasons for this shortfall: lack of awareness that the program exists and being intimidated by the long, complex application process.

Who Can Qualify For The VA Aid & Assistance Program

Not all seniors or even all veterans can qualify for Aid & Assistance, but many do, and since the benefit is often around $2,000 per month, it’s well worthwhile to find out if you qualify.

To be eligible, all of the following must be true of the applicant:

  • Was honorably discharged from military service.
  • Served 90 or more days of continuous active duty, including at least one day during a time of war.
  • Meets the “countable family income” limits. This is the total monthly/annual income minus unreimbursed medical expenses and certain public benefit payments.
  • Has a medically documented need for assisted daily living, such as help eating, bathing, or getting dressed.
  • Any of the following are also true of the applicant: is 65 or older, is totally/permanently disabled, is currently a patient in a nursing home, or is currently receiving SSDI or SSI benefits.

The VA will also take account of the applicant’s total net worth. There is no specific rule here – it goes on a case-by-case basis. A home, car, and basic assets are not counted, but a high total asset value on non-essentials could bar approval for the program.

Navigating The Application Process

On average, it takes nine months from start to finish to gather all necessary documents, fill out all forms, apply, and finally, receive approval for Aid & Attendance benefits from the VA. The total list of necessary documentation is quite long, including such papers as veteran discharge originals, proof of assets and income, a physician’s note detailing what type of care the applicant needs, or the marriage certificate for a veteran’s spouse seeking benefits.

However, this process is well worth it if you ultimately get approved. Monthly benefits for single veterans has a maximum of $1,830 currently, while for a veteran plus his/her spouse, the maximum is $2,170 per month. Plus, you get reimbursed retroactively for the months you spent waiting for your application to be approved.

Also note that, if a veteran is approved for Aid & Attendance and then passes away, the application process for his surviving spouse is much shorter – around three months on average.

Let Us Help You

To learn more about the VA Aid & Assistance program, to find out if you or your loved one qualify, or for help and advice on wading through the application process, do not hesitate to contact A Place at Home today! We have in-depth knowledge of this program and of other possible means of securing financial assistance for veterans or for others in need of assisted living care.

How New Medicare Advantage Changes Could Affect You

Medicare, in general, is more focused than ever on positive health outcomes, specifically on keeping seniors out of the hospital.

Medicare Advantage plans have been responding to this by adding extra coverage. For the first time, these extras may include basic (non-medical) in-home senior care.

This newly-offered type of care may provide for household support activities for seniors that help them live comfortably and healthily at home. These essential tasks could include light cleaning, cooking, dishwashing, grooming and more. Home safety equipment may also be included. For more detail and background, read on.

About Medicare Advantage

Also called Medicare Part C, the Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and replace Medicare Parts A (hospital), B (doctors, office visits and tests) and sometimes D (drug coverage). You may have a choice of several Medicare Advantage plans, depending upon where you live. If you choose an Advantage plan, you must follow their rules and must typically use their network of doctors.

The private Medicare Advantage insurance plans must cover the same medical care that traditional Medicare does, but may charge more (or less) for specific services. These plans may also impose extra rules, such as requiring a referral to see a specialist, etc. (Referrals are not currently required in traditional Medicare.)

Medicare Advantage may charge an additional monthly premium, over and above your regular Medicare premium ($135 monthly in 2019), and some Advantage HMOs charge no extra premium.

New Medicare Advantage Offerings

For a few years now, Medicare Advantage has been touting “extra benefits” like vision care (optometry and prescription eyeglasses), dental cleanings, hearing aids and/or free gym memberships. They hoped the extras would encourage people to switch from traditional Medicare, to Medicare Advantage.

Recently, the private insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans have been given permission to add even more extras, which vary from one plan and company to another.

What is so interesting for seniors who need home caregivers is this: In the past, seniors could only get limited, skilled medical in-home care from traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage. They would not cover any “non-skilled” in-home care that seniors need. Now, these items may be included. Examples of new in-home supportive services Medicare Advantage may cover:

  • At-home custodial care (grooming, meal preparation, bathing, and more)
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Meal delivery
  • Shower grab bars and other home safety devices
  • Caregiver support
  • Adult daycare
  • And more

Keep in mind that coverage varies significantly by plan, so be sure to read the details before choosing among the Medicare Advantage plans, or deciding to stick with traditional Medicare.

Study Coverage Details and Rules Carefully

This extra at-home coverage is welcome news for seniors and their family caregivers. It’s very important to be aware, however, that different plans will have different specifics, varying rules about accessing these benefits, and limits on the maximum number of home visits allowed. Medicare’s guide to Advantage Plans may help you.

By adding this extra coverage, Medicare Advantage is acknowledging what we have known for so long—that proper in-home care (beyond skilled medical/nursing care) improves long-term health for seniors. This type of care can keep seniors living successfully at home, which saves seniors money and helps the senior to enjoy greater independence, as well as enhanced quality of life. It’s about time, and we hope for even more positive changes in the future.

Transition Care for Seniors

Often times, Medicare does not cover, A Place at Home is here to fill the gaps in coverage and prevent unnecessary readmissions through our Transition Care Management (TCM) program.

Our TCM program ensures a safe and smooth transition home by complying with discharge orders, providing personal care, transportation, helping with errands, follow-up appointments, and light housekeeping.

If you or a loved one are in need of transition care, contact us for more information.

When To See A Doctor: Parkinson’s Disease

April is National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and we realize that many of our readers, or their loved ones, are affected by the disease.

PD (Parkinson’s disease) is typically not diagnosed until age 50 or older and is currently incurable, but not fatal. However, its complications, like pneumonia, can be life-threatening. This makes an early diagnosis, close medical monitoring, and supportive senior care crucial for those with PD. Please review these important facts about PD and learn how to recognize early signs.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder, causing gradual nerve cell deterioration in the brain region known as the substantia nigra, over a period of many years. The brain cells affected are dopamine-producing neurons. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, helps coordinate body movement— turning thoughts about moving into active motion. Dopamine also regulates emotional responses, helps you to pay attention, learn, and more. Parkinson’s is 50 percent more common in men and the cause of the disease is currently unknown.

When to See a Doctor: Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s symptoms vary from person to person and progress at different rates. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, see your doctor for an exam. The symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions, so you must see a doctor for a diagnosis. Doing so quickly will help you maintain good health and reduce stress (on you as the patient, and your loved ones).

No matter what the cause of your symptoms may beearly diagnosis provides the very best chance for successful treatment and a bright future. Most people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed after age 50. As individuals age, PD can lead to PDD (Parkinson’s Disease Dementia)

PD symptoms may include increased levels of:

  • Tremors in hands and other body areas
  • Arm and/or leg stiffness
  • Slowed movements, known as Bradykinesia
  • Balance problems, difficulty walking

Early PD signs to watch for, especially if these are new or have no reasonable explanation:

  • Poor posture, sitting or standing stooped over
  • Sad or blank expression on the face
  • Horse or quiet voice
  • Poor sense of smell
  • Difficulty moving, stiffness
  • Micrographia, small or crowded handwriting
  • Sleep problems
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

Living with PD

To maintain the highest possible quality of life, individuals living with Parkinson’s disease must be regularly monitored by their physician, usually a neurologist. Physical therapy is commonly prescribed early on— and regular exercise is known to delay worsening of symptoms. There are a number of medications used to help manage PD.

For the best prognosis, patients should have the understanding and support of family members and/or caregivers, as needed, so that they can overcome the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. 

The actor Michael J. Fox is a well-known individual living with Parkinson’s, (diagnosed early, at age 30), and Alan Alda recently revealed he has PD, diagnosed about four years ago, at age 78. Both provide examples of, and valuable insight about, living well with PD.

How Common is Parkinson’s Disease? states that approximately one million people will be living with PD by 2020, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The aging population with Parkinson’s is creating an increasing need for senior care options and supportive services. Medical research is ongoing–to find better medications and treatments to counter symptoms, and potentially discover a cure for PD. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has published an outline of promising Parkinson’s research in progress. 

We’re Here to Help

For seniors living with Parkinson’s disease, and their loved ones, A Place at Homeprovides customized in-home senior care options. Contact us for more information.

Understanding the Potential Link Between Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening type of dementia that causes issues with memory, thinking processes, and behavior.

The symptoms generally start slow and gradually worsen over time and increasingly interfere with the patient’s day-to-day tasks and relationships.

Studies into the causes and cures for Alzheimer’s has been ongoing for decades, and while no single cause has been determined, recent studies have uncovered some things that can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. One of those things is stress.

Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the first studies into the linking of stress and Alzheimer’s began in 2012 by the University of Southhampton in the United Kingdom. Members of that research team undertook a three-year study investigating how chronic stress impacts both people with ongoing mild cognitive impairment and people of a control group that had no reported memory issues. 

A more recent study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine has determined that stress connected to both traumatic childhood and adulthood experiences can cause the brain to age more rapidly than that of a person without a history of such negative experiences.

The results of the study were presented at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and the research itself covered 1,300 individuals in their 50s and their performance on a variety of memory and thinking tests. The conclusion determined that stressful events could age the brain by at least four years. 

The Basics of What is Stress

Stress occurs when a person’s body is forced to respond to a situation the mind deems dangerous. Common symptoms of stress include tense muscles, increased sweating, and pounding heart. While these immediate symptoms generally fade once danger passes, some individuals may continue to experiences feelings of stress.

Such ongoing feelings and symptoms are known as chronic stress, and as studies have shown, chronic stress can be very serious and have severe, permanent effects on the individual mentally, physically, and emotionally.

How Stress Causes Physical Changes to the Brain

The hormone that causes many of the symptoms of stress is known as cortisol, often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol is one of the primary hormones involved in a body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and when it’s released due to stress, it’s what causes those symptoms of increased blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.

A person who has chronic stress has chronically high cortisol levels which is what research has shown to be associated with high blood pressure, anxiety, and memory loss.

Physical Changes to the Brain Stress Causes:

  • Lost brain cells
  • A reduction in brain size
  • Decreased activity in the pre-frontal cortex
  • Disruption of certain synapses that regulate social skills and cognitive functions
  • Increased activity in the brain area that regulates anxiety

Taking Control Over Lifestyle Factors

While studies have certainly provided enough evidence to show that memory loss and dementia-specific diseases like Alzheimer’s have a connection to stress, particularly chronic stress and stress related to traumatic events—there has been no definitive evidence showing a direct linkage.

However, what has been shown is that taking control of certain lifestyle factors can reduce a person’s risk of developing such ailments. Therefore, it is in your best interest to minimize stress-inducing activities and assist your senior loved ones with lowering their stress. 

How Seniors Can Make the Most of the New Tax Laws

The tax filing deadline this year is Monday, April 15, 2019, making now the ideal time to look at how newly-introduced Trump tax rules may affect seniors. Tax brackets have changed this year, with lower taxes for many people. However, some deductions are discontinued or capped, which could cut into any savings. Here we list important tax changes affecting seniors.

Senior Tax Planning in the Trump Era

Keep these points in mind when planning your tax strategy and filing 2018 federal taxes:

  • Reconsider itemizing vs. standard deduction: The standard deduction is now $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers. Itemizing will benefit those whose deductible expenses are higher than this new threshold.  
  • Consider itemizing if medical expenses were over 7.5 percent: Add up your healthcare expenses to decide about whether or not to itemize. This year, if you itemize, you may deduct medical expenses that total more than 7.5 percent of your AGI (adjusted gross income). 
  • Think about moving for property tax savings: Moving may seem drastic, but if you’ve already been considering moving to another state, and/or downsizing to a smaller home for retirement, now may be the best time. Your state and local tax (SALT) deductions are now limited to $10,000, meaning you may not be able to deduct as much in property taxes (as you might have in past years). Moving to an area, or home, with a smaller tax bill may be worthwhile if property taxes are high where you currently live.

How the New, Lower Tax Rates and Bracket Changes May Help Seniors

  • You may save on RMDs (required minimum IRA distributions): At age 70 ½, you must withdraw minimum amounts from your 401k or IRA, which adds to your income. Tax rates have gone down for many Americans, and brackets expanded. (There are 7 tax brackets, with tax rates from 10 percent up to 37 percent for high incomes.) This means your extra IRA or 401k distribution income won’t be taxed as heavily as it may have been in past years. Saving money here could make up for property taxes you might no longer deduct. 
  • You may save if some of your Social Security benefits are taxable: If your income (including Social Security benefits) exceeds a certain amount, the Social Security benefits may be partly taxed as income. However, the new tax brackets and lower rates across the board could take the sting out of a higher income.

Everyone’s tax situation is unique. Senior retirees should consult a financial advisor or tax consultant now, for specific advice on tax filing. Expert advisors are busy (and get even busier as days pass) this time of year–plus more people will seek professional help with the new tax rules this year. Starting now will allow you time to weigh any new tax strategy options you have, and get your 2018 taxes filed by the April 15, 2019, tax filing deadline. If you want to read more about the changes, this is a relatively short outline of tax changes issued by the IRS.

A Place at Home: Dedicated to Caring for Seniors 

As a leader in the in-home senior care field, A Place at Home is dedicated to helping seniors enjoy the highest possible quality of life. That includes saving money on taxes and receiving convenient, compassionate home care. If you need more information about customized, at-home senior care options, contact us today

NOTE: In Massachusetts and Maine, this year’s tax filing deadline is Wednesday, April 17, 2019, due to local holidays. For all other states, the tax deadline is Monday, April 15, 2019.

How to Prevent Heart Disease At Any Age

Taking proper care of your heart requires a lifestyle commitment that not everyone is willing to make. People of all ages can get caught up in bad habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise. Proactively taking steps to prevent heart disease is essential to living a healthy life. Check out the tips below to get started on your journey to healthy living.

Live smoke-free

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. The act of smoking is always extremely harsh on our hearts and blood vessels by giving way to increased blood pressure and depleted oxygen levels.

In just 20 minutes after that last drag, blood pressure levels and pulse rates begin dropping. After a full year of quitting, a person’s chance of a heart attack is diminished by half. Reducing the risks associated with cardiovascular disease begins with putting out that last cigarette, for good. Remember, quitting tobacco products completely is the only working strategy to fully protect your heart from the negative effects of smoking.

Eat Healthily

Did you know that protecting yourself from heart attacks and other complications of heart disease can begin with a simple change in diet? Diets high in sodium can lead to
increases in blood pressure and further complicate symptoms of an existing cardiovascular disease.

  • Limit consumption of unhealthy, solid fats
  • Cut down on recipes that are high in cholesterol.
  • Substitute plain fruits and vegetables into your shopping list for items that are high in sodium, like instant dinners.
  • Consider purchasing from local producers to add an extra dash of freshness to your next entree.

Looking for a new culinary direction for your meals? Check out the delicious, heart-healthy dishes that are common to the Mediterranean diet. Seniors can benefit positively from the food choices associated with a Mediterranean diet, as well as the cultural emphasis on enjoying meals with friends and family.

Exercise Daily

One of the greatest challenges is pairing a nutritious diet with a regular schedule of exercise. Older adults, who are at the greatest risk of heart disease, must engage in regular physical activity to enjoy lower, safer blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If you are looking for activities to stay active, don’t underestimate the value of simply going for a walk if the weather is tolerable. Many adults with joint pain and arthritis will turn to yoga or water aerobics as their outlet for physical activity. Water provides a kind of low-impact resistance training capable of targeting your joints and muscles.

As always, family members and caregivers should work to improve mobility and fall prevention by finding exercises that target the skills and abilities that can keep seniors safe during their daily routines.

How to Celebrate the New Year, Senior Style

If you’re spending time with your elderly parents for the New Year holiday, make sure your plans are senior appropriate. Here are some suggestions for a New Year’s celebration that all ages can enjoy together. Choose your plans with an eye toward relaxed holiday fun for seniors, avoiding anything that creates stress for senior loved ones. Think of this as a time to relax, bond, share past memories and make new ones.

Sing in the New Year

Watch a movie musical and sing along, create a list of songs in iTunes or video playlist on YouTube. Sample one of the karaoke channels, with words on-screen so you can easily sing along! If you’re somewhat tech savvy, Google “online karaoke” for apps that allow you to record and playback your karaoke performances on your PC/Mac laptop or your phone.

Cook (or Eat Out)

Plan to make a holiday meal favorite that your family has always enjoyed, or one that’s traditional in your community. Make things simpler by pre-shopping for ingredients, asking your parent for suggestions. Keep your senior loved one involved by giving them a meal prep role, appropriate for their level of functioning and preference.

To involve grandkids, consider making cookies together. Let kids and grandparents cut shapes from the batter and add holiday decorations on top.  If you want to get out of the house for New Year’s Eve, consider going out to eat but be sure to reserve in advance as the night is sure to be busy. Schedule meals early in the day or early evening, when seniors are most energetic. Include dressing up for the New Year festivities, if your senior enjoys this.

Reminisce on Milestones

Start a discussion about significant event(s) your parents have enjoyed or achievements they’ve accomplished. Ask about aspects you’ve always wondered about, or go over memories together. Look at home movies, photographs or mementos as you talk.

Craft Silly Party Hats

This is a great multi-generation activity. Have elderly parents help the little ones decorate hats, or kids can help their senior parents. Paper plates may act as brims or create cone-shaped hats with lightweight cardstock or colored papers. Draw, add stickers, or glue ribbons and glitter on hats to create that New Year’s party look. Adult coloring has become popular in recent years, so you could create more sophisticated, artistic hats if you prefer, using colored pencils or artist’s markers in a variety of shades.

If hats aren’t your thing, consider creating another New Year’s art-and-craft project together. Does your senior relative know how to knit or crochet? Ask them to teach you or your kids some basics—and make a knit hat or socks. You don’t have to finish projects that day. Family members can send each other photos of the results in the coming weeks.

Make Simple, Positive Resolutions

Appreciating small moments has never been more important—for all of us. Instead of making New Year resolutions that you might feel guilty about not achieving, resolve to “stop and smell the roses.”

Pledge to each other that you will: spend time in nature daily, set up a hummingbird feeder, start a garden, practice a favorite craft, eat a piece of dark chocolate daily, or write down something you’re grateful for. Pick one or two things, that are small and simple as well as life-affirming and fulfilling. Choose an activity based on the senior’s level of health and activity  Check in with each other throughout the coming year, to see how you’re all doing on your self-nurturing pledges.

For expert assistance with senior care, any time of year, contact A Place at Home senior care in Omaha. We are ready to help today. 

How to Enjoy Holiday Fun Without Risking Senior Health

The holidays can be stressful, but by keeping a few tips in mind, you and your aging parents can make the most of time spent together. Think of the holidays as an opportunity to renew connections with elderly parents who live far away, or to become closer to them, even if you live just down the street. With a little forethought, celebrating this special season can become the highlight of your year.

Tips for Senior Health and Happiness During the Holidays

Banish Hosting Stress

Planning, cooking and cleaning up before (and after) a family holiday feast can be daunting, whether you’re young or older. Consider ordering a complete meal in advance, to simply pick up and serve—or even go out to lunch or dinner for your official holiday meal. This can take the pressure off of formal dining at your home or at your elderly parents’. Now you can relax and spend more quality time bonding together.

Simplify Gift-Giving

Save your senior loved ones (and yourself) the anxiety of choosing just the right gift(s), with a secret Santa or gift grab bag. This way, each family member buys for just one other, or you can pile general-interest gifts or gag gifts together, letting each person take one at random. This also helps senior parents save money, which they’ll appreciate, especially if they are on a limited budget. Minimizing trips to the crowded mall also makes holidays more enjoyable, especially for those with mobility challenges.

Avoid Over-Scheduling

Remember the priority is enjoying one another, so allow for rest breaks between activities, rather than racing from one holiday event to another. Older family members may need time to regroup in the midst of the holiday excitement. Low key activities that can bring everyone together include playing board games, making cookies, or watching a movie in the living room.

Make Home Safe and Comfy

If parents are visiting you this season, prepare your home for their needs. For instance, give them a room on the first floor of your house, if possible, with its own bath (or at least near the bath). Pick up or move aside furnishings, throw rugs or decor they might slip on, or have trouble squeezing through. Have nutritious snack options and favorite foods on hand to help ensure senior health and comfort.

Let Everyone Feel Needed

Ask your beloved senior for holiday advice about what to include in the holiday meal, or how to cook a favorite recipe from your childhood. Give them a role in decorating the tree. Make sure seniors are included in activities, and never ignored. Doing this will enrich the holiday experience for all generations.

Coordinate with Caregivers

Help maintain senior health by making it simple for your older relatives to stay on special diets, remember their medications, get plenty of sleep, keep hydrated, and get some exercise. Current caregivers in your older parents’ life can let you know about your senior’s recent support needs, if necessary. If your loved one needs help preparing to travel to you, ask a reliable senior caregiver to help them pack and make arrangements.

Here’s to a festive, happy holiday season as you make special memories together with the ones you love.

For assistance with a wide variety of senior health resources and dependable, supportive in-home services, contact A Place at Home senior care in Omaha. 


Private Duty Care Improves Rate of Reimbursement For Skilled Nursing Facilities

Recent changes in our nation’s healthcare laws could have a big impact on the future of skilled nursing facilities (SNF) and their patients. The key change that is set to affect SNFs going into 2019 is the SNF VBP (Value-Based Purchasing) program for Medicare reimbursements.

This program went into effect on October 1, 2018, the beginning of fiscal year 2019 for SNFs, and impacts performance dating back to 2017. As we enter the new year, the full impact will become much clearer as we work our way through 2019.

The What and Why of Skilled Nursing Facilities & Value-Based Purchasing

The 2014 Protecting Access to Medicare Act set into motion the SNF VBP program. Value-Based Purchasing seeks to shift our focus from quantity to quality of service, with reimbursements being tied more to quality.

More specifically, the changes to Medicare reimbursement for SNFs are meant to reduce re-hospitalization rates. There are several reasons for this shift including:

    • Re-admissions often have a significant negative impact on patients’ physical and mental well being.
    • Hospital readmissions cost Medicare billions of dollars every year, and reducing this cost remains a priority for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
    • CMS believes that many re-hospitalizations might not have been necessary if a higher quality of care had been provided earlier.

Bottom line, by providing incentive payments to SNFs that perform exceptionally well on service quality, and have fewer unplanned readmissions of their patients, CMS hopes to improve quality of care and save money at the same time.

Possible Risks / Rewards of Skilled Nursing Facilities and  Value Based Purchasing

All SNFs that are reimbursed under the Protective Payment System are included in the VBP program. That gives SNFs an opportunity to earn incentive payments but also exposes them to the financial risks of not earning those incentives.

Another possible outcome for receiving low performance scores when comparing your SNF to other SNFs include a negative organizational/brand image,which could impact the ability to acquire new patients.  The opposite holds true for those SNFs with high performance scores.

However, another major risk that could leave your SNF and some patients in limbo if not managed well is the 30-day all-cause readmission measure. This rule has been incorporated into SNF VBP, and for many fee-for-service Medicare patients involves an estimate of the risk of readmission, and a cessation of Medicare coverage of readmissions under certain parameters.

Typically, Medicare covers the patients costs for the first 21 days, and then the SNF can be penalized through VBP for any unplanned re-hospitalizations during the patients final nine days.

Going forward, it is essential for SNFs to bolster their quality of care by taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk of unnecessary readmissions.

How to Improve Your VBP Performance Score

There are several strategies which can be implemented to improve quality of care and your SNF VBP performance scores. The scores range from 0 to 100 for each performance period, and there is also a 0 to 90 point “improvement scale score.”

      • Investigate SNF VBP further and understand the metrics used.
      • Analyze and monitor your reports regularly so you always know where you stand.
      • Take advantage of quality improvement programs that help you identify the underlying causes of readmissions and then identify solutions.
    • Consider having your skilled nursing facility team up with a home care organization for the continuation of high-quality care for your patients, while reducing unplanned re-hospitalization rates.

A Place at Home Transition Care Management Program

A Place at Home’s major focus in 2019 is to prevent SNFs unnecessary readmissions by providing our Transition Care Management Program. The Transition Care Management Program is particularly relevant to SNFs who are looking to improve their scores, reduce readmissions and provide a quality of care that will set them apart from the rest of the pack. This program is a low-cost program that is designed to follow a high-risk patient home and get them re-acclimated back to their environment.

Around 20% of Medicare patients lack the sufficient resources to let them stay at home post-discharge, however, partnering with A Place at Home can provide these clients with the initial resources to get them home and assist them in staying home long term.

What does the APH Transition Care Management Program involve? Below are six key elements:

    1. Transitions patients safely from SNF to the home environment.
    1. Transports them to their home or to their primary care provider, as needed.
    1. Ensures full medication compliance post-discharge, including offering medication pick-up service and medication reminders.
    1. Help keep patients compliant with all discharge orders.
    1. Communicates to all physicians, specialists and ancillary providers that play a role in the patients care.
  1. Prepares meals, runs errands, grocery shopping, performs light housekeeping, assists with bathing and personal care, and additional common homecare duties.

Under new CMS rules, partnering with a home care provider is essential, especially for clients with chronic illnesses, frequent visits to the ER/hospital, numerous medications, at risk of falling or unable to care for themselves. APH Transition Care Management Program is designed to reduce the risk of unnecessary readmissions, keep SNF reimbursements high, improve patient quality of care, and most importantly improve quality of life.

If you are affiliated with a Skilled Nursing Facility, or work with SNFs and want to discuss this more contact me directly at 402-281-0737 or email at Together we can make a positive impact on those we serve.

Author, Dustin Distefano, CEO

A Place at Home

ClearCare: Protecting Our Clients Sensitive Information

In the senior care industry, business owners and franchisees must manage a significant amount of sensitive client data. This sensitive information can include everything from payment information to confidential health records, which must be rigorously maintained according to HIPAA standards. Our industry-leading data security solution, ClearCare Online, makes it simple to keep confidential details under wraps.

What is ClearCare Online?

ClearCare provides a secure and user-friendly online platform and mobile framework for storing sensitive information, including confidential PHI (protected health information). This enterprise level, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution has been adopted by thousands of home care businesses–and now forms an integral part of A Place at Home’s daily risk-management and secure data storage operations. This online info-security tool enables us to input, update, securely share and track client information, and analyze/refer to the data as needed, all while carefully controlling access and ensuring data security.

How We Use ClearCare

ClearCare offers online software that powers our secure daily operations as a senior care agency. ClearCare’s caregiver portal helps facilitate communication among members of the patient/client’s care team. ClearCare securely stores data and allows us to run reports for insight into customer behavior, client needs and other forms of crucial business intelligence. Data analysis helps us run our business efficiently, reveals trends, helps establish best practices, and allows for business planning.

Why We Selected ClearCare to Manage Sensitive Information

The trusted ClearCare Online platform is widely used and proven data security technology, customized for the senior care industry. In addition, ClearCare has recently earned CSF (Common Security Framework) certification from the HITRUST (Health Information Trust) Alliance, which evaluates information protection practices in detail; including access controls, password management and much more.

This certification indicates that the platform successfully meets stringent government privacy regulations and industry record-keeping requirements, and that its software properly protects sensitive information. ClearCare’s feature set also makes it a great solution for risk management. The platform enables us to securely connect with healthcare teams and payers, in accordance with industry cyber security norms that will withstand independent audits.

A Place at Home Securely Conducts Business with ClearCare

The secure ClearCare platform makes running your franchise business, and handling sensitive information, simpler on a daily basis. In accordance with our core mission, A Place at Home is dedicated to guarding client privacy, as an integral part of serving their senior care needs. To learn more, contact A Place at Home franchise today.