December 20, 2013 Updated: December 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm
Picture what often happens when an elderly patient isn't doing well. She goes to her primary care physician, who suggests that besides medical care, she needs physical therapy, nutrition education, counseling, maybe even a neuro-psychological assessment.
The scramble to get all this together can be stressful for both the patient and caregiver as they set up appointments and go from clinic to clinic, without little or no help coordinating the services.As a result, some studies show, only 10 percent of patients follow through with referrals for additional care.
But early next year, if the patient starts her examination at the Lane Center for Academic Health Science, the experience will be different, says Michael Kenny, executive director at the Aging Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
It will be like a one-stop shopping experience.
The Lane Center, located on campus at the intersection of North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway, is scheduled to open Feb. 19.
Kenny and his staff will move to Lane to join several health entities setting up shop there: the Lane Family Senior Health Clinic, operated by Peak Vista Community Health Centers; the UCCS Gerontology Center, which focuses on academic research in the field of aging; and the UCCS HealthCircle Veteran Health and Trauma Clinic, which will provide help to veterans.
Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences will operate two clinics at Lane: the HealthCircle Center for Active Living , which has an "exercise as medicine" approach to care, and the HealthCircle Peak Nutrition Clinic., with a focus on "food is fuel."
Having such services so close to each other will make it much easier to serve older patients. "We will be providing care together," Kenny says.
No matter where patients start in the system, they can easily be referred to the other clinics, which are just steps away and can be involved in care plans, he says.
The beauty of the programs is that both medical and mental health care can be addressed, Kenny says - something that often is lacking in care for the elderly. Two out of three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions, and such medical problems can lead to stress, isolation and loneliness, and even contribute to death.
The 55-plus population in Colorado will increase from around 149,000 to nearly 220,000 by 2030. Of those, 25 percent will experience mental disorders not part of normal aging, he notes.
It's not just seniors who will benefit from the new facility. Many of the programs at Lane will include on-the-job training for graduate students in such disciplines as nursing, clinical psychology, nutrition and physical therapy.
Lane's senior health center will be run by Peak Vista Community Health Centers, a nonprofit group that offers medical, dental and behavioral health services to people who are low-income, and those with and without various forms of insurance. Its partnership with the Aging Center began in 2005, but the two were not located near each other.
"The partnership that created the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences is a win-win-win for Peak Vista Community Health Centers, UCCS and our broader community," says UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak. "The outstanding teamwork of the past few years will expand our ability to serve seniors and their families."
The Aging Center has an array of programs for seniors. There is a Memory and Cognitive Assessment Clinic, where individuals are evaluated to gauge their decision-making capacity - something that affects such basics as safety and their ability to live independently. It also offers one-hour screening for those who would like a baseline to track their memory function through time.
Several support groups are available, including one for caregivers.
The neuropsychology clinic provides detailed tests of three to seven hours to determine such things as how well a person can make reasoned decisions. It is the only one of its type in southern Colorado, Kenny says.
"What excites me about all this is the community aspect, working together with these other agencies to help the elderly," he says.