CERRITOS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--CareMore today announced the “Be in the Circle: Be Connected” campaign, a new awareness and education initiative designed to elevate the issue of senior loneliness and foster meaningful dialogue among seniors, caregivers and health care professionals. The cornerstone of the campaign is CareMore’s Togetherness Program, a first-of-its-kind clinical effort that will address the social challenges aging seniors face on a daily basis, which are not systematically diagnosed and discussed in clinical practice.
Due to its complexities and masked symptoms, senior loneliness is often invisible, but has significant health consequences. Loneliness affects more than 43 percent of adults over the age of 65. It is a risk factor for numerous serious conditions including cognitive decline and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, recurrent stroke, obesity, and premature mortality. In addition, research shows loneliness and the lack of social connections are as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“Despite the fact that loneliness is a common emotional distress syndrome with a high risk factor for early mortality and a broad variety of physical health and psychiatric issues, it still gets little attention in medical training or in health care more generally,” said CareMore President Dr. Sachin H. Jain. “It is critical we address the physical, psychological and social well-being of aging seniors, and the Togetherness Program is an important first step in addressing the widespread issue of senior loneliness.”
“While anyone can feel isolated, loneliness is more likely in populations already at risk for social alienation and separation, such as older individuals who live alone or patients with long-term health conditions that limit their ability to communicate or move about,” said Dr. Zubin J. Eapen, CareMore’s Chief Medical Officer.
According to a recent CareMore survey of older adults, not only did the findings indicate that one in five seniors feel isolated from their friends and family, but 27 percent also noted they would like their health care provider to offer programs to connect them to people or activities in their community to help them stay healthy.
Dr. Eapen adds, “This feeling of separation and disconnection with society, community and family impacts emotional and physical health so much that we believe loneliness should be viewed by the health care community as a clinical, medical condition. We must engage in conversations with patients to unmask and destigmatize the issue of loneliness. By viewing loneliness as we would any other chronic condition or disease, it becomes possible to develop solutions and prescribe treatment strategies to effectively address this ailment and improve patient lives across the country.”
CareMore’s value-based model provides the freedom to deliver common sense solutions to meet the medical, social and personal health needs of aging seniors inside and outside the doctor’s office – whether the need is for transportation, integrated dental care, exercise programs – and, now, support to combat loneliness. The factors that can lead to loneliness vary widely (e.g., socioeconomic status, housing, safety), so the Togetherness Program aims to address loneliness with a multi-faceted approach.
Robin Caruso, LCSW, CareMore’s newly appointed Chief Togetherness Officer, will oversee the Togetherness Program to ensure loneliness is addressed in the clinical setting. Success of the program will be measured by assessing improvements in quality of life and clinical outcomes (e.g., increased socialization, decreased depression) as well as reduced patient admission rates and bed days.
“Based on early screenings of CareMore’s Medicare Advantage patients in four states, we have identified 1,100 patients who may be candidates for our novel clinical program, and screening for risk factors will become a standard practice for all our senior patients,” said Caruso, who has spent her 28-year career as a social worker focusing on seniors and mental health, with a specialty in end-of-life care and dementia. “Our initial efforts are focused on building personal connections with at-risk patients through consistent and positive engagement. We will tailor and expand our offerings based on what we learn patients need the most.”
As part of this educational initiative, CareMore’s “Be in the Circle: Be Connected” campaign will be featured at the Foundation for Art & Healing‘s inaugural Creatively Connected Conference and Film Festival in New York City on May 9. CareMore is a primary sponsor of the festival, which will highlight the themes, topics and complexities of loneliness and isolation.
If you think a loved one or a senior member of your community might be lonely, reach out and be connected. Increased awareness is the first step to preventing the health consequences of loneliness among seniors. To learn more about CareMore’s model of care please visit www.caremorehealthsystem.com.
CareMore is a physician-founded, physician-led care delivery system and health plan that harnesses the power of teamwork to treat the whole person. Through a focus on prevention and highly coordinated care, its clinical model and designed-for-purpose approach to managing chronic disease proactively addresses the medical, social and personal health needs of its patients, resulting in clinical outcomes above the national average and ultimately, healthier people and communities. Over the past eight years, the CareMore Care Centers have expanded from one state to seven. And today, the CareMore delivery system provides care for enrollees in Medicare Advantage and Medicaid health plans in California, Nevada, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, Iowa, and Georgia. CareMore also is participating in a dual demonstration project in parts of Los Angeles County in conjunction with state and federal regulators to coordinate care for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. For more information about CareMore, go to www.caremorehealthsystem.com.