Educating aging adults and their caregivers about self-management

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With advances in medicine and technology, patients with chronic disease are living longer, creating an increasingly common scenario in which older adults rely on family members or caregivers to provide assistance with their medications and disease management. Educating caregivers and family about medication management, fall prevention, and community support is an important component of administering quality care to older patients.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a National Council on Patient Information and Education member group, has three projects to help aging adults and their caregivers and family members. As pharmacists engage with patients more routinely on multiple medications for chronic conditions through medication synchronization, awareness about these types of programs that target older adults and their caregivers is an important asset for use in patient counseling. Medication management is a common thread throughout the triad of programs.

Disease self-management

NCOA and Stanford University have collaborated for nearly a decade to empower individuals with chronic conditions to manage their own care. Through a partnership with the U.S. Administration for Community Living, NCOA promotes Stanford’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) through community-based workshops.

The highly interactive small-group workshops are held once a week for 6 to 8 weeks for 2.5 hours. The workshops are held in communities across the country and are led by non–health professionals who have chronic diseases. The CDSMP is focused on giving aging adults and their caregivers the confidence they need to take care of patients with chronic conditions.

According to the NCOA website, the CDSMP has resulted in significant, measurable improvements in the health and quality of life of people with chronic conditions, including fewer emergency department visits, fewer hospitalizations, and health care savings of approximately $590 per participant.

For information about attending a workshop, visit www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/chronic-disease.html.

Preventing falls

One in three community-dwelling persons older than 65 years falls each year, and this number increases to one in two by the age of 80 years, according to NCOA. The organization has launched a national effort called the Falls Free Initiative to reduce the number of falls and fall-related injuries in older adults. The initiative includes a national action plan, fall prevention workgroups, educational initiatives, and creation of infrastructure to reduce falls.

NCOA also partnered with PHI to develop fall prevention awareness training for home health care workers. The free training is available for caregivers at http://phinational.org/workforce/resources/phi-curricula/fall-prevention....

Information sharing, collaboration

NCOA chairs the Self-Management Alliance (SMA), a group designed to promote strategic collaboration among government, business, and nonprofit organizations to achieve the goal of making self-management an integral part of health. The group believes that family and other caregivers are at the heart of improving the health of patients living with chronic diseases.

The SMA is currently working on a Model Community Initiative that takes a whole-system approach to the integration of self-management throughout a person’s experience of health care. The idea is to link together community resources to provide support for self-management. The whole-system approach integrates a set of building blocks that include patient-centered health care, evidence-based interventions, risk stratifications, eHealth infrastructure, and other elements to promote self-management, according to NCOA.

For more information about the Model Community Initiative or to join the SMA, visit www.selfmanagmentalliance.org.

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