|SPRINGFIELD — Responding to the growing need for more carefully coordinated management of the medical and health and safety needs of older adults who are living alone, Mercy Medical Center will launch a new “geriatric consulting service” in July that will provide comprehensive evaluations, recommendations and referrals for elders and their primary care physicians as well as for family members who are faced with questions and concerns about how to care for older family members.
The program will be located at the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital on the Mercy Medical Center campus in Springfield. James E. Fanale, M.D., a geriatric medicine specialist and the chief operating officer of Mercy, will lead the initiative. Other staff will include Susan L.W. Krupnick, M.S.N., a nurse practitioner and advance practice psychiatric nurse specialist; social worker Judy Burgos, B.A., L.S.W.. and a program coordinator to be named.
Each consultation will provide clients and their families, in the space of a two or three hour appointment, a thorough and objective medical and psychiatric evaluation, a comprehensive physical therapy and occupational therapy assessment (for example, to determine the person’s risk of falling and ability to perform activities of daily living such as dressing and eating); and a meeting with the consultation team, which will include a review of the client’s current medication regime.
“A thorough report will be forwarded to the client’s primary care physician that will include a write-up of the evaluation, recommendations for medical care and possibly referrals for things like a driving assessment, swallowing evaluation and outpatient speech or physical therapy,” said Fanale. “The family, too, leaves the consultation with a plan and with recommendations.”
“Currently, there’s no program out there offering families comprehensive help in deciding whether an older family member is safe living at home,” said Krupnick. “As a result, elderly people often end up hospitalized before any kind of process is in place. Our goal is to help prevent that hospitalization, or subsequent hospitalizations, from occurring at all.”
With an evaluation in hand, the client’s primary care physician, with input from family members, can decide on how best to move forward, whether or not to contact specialists and whether or not outpatient therapy is advisable. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Fanale. “Our expertise will help establish each client’s strengths and needs, provide recommendations and resources for the family and physician and hopefully ensure the highest quality of life for people in their later years.”