Casey Hearing Examines Person-centered Health and Long-term Care for Older Americans

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today held a hearing that focused on improving person-centered residential long-term care and outpatient health care for older Americans.  At the hearing, Senator Casey announced that he is working on legislation that would help provide better person-centered long-term care. 

“Our elders deserve to live lives of dignity and respect through all stages of life,” said Senator Casey.  “They have a profound right to be decision-makers in their own care – to be at the center of their own care, with a partnership of family and providers.  And our elders are critically important to the overall health and well being of our society.” 

In his opening statement, Senator Casey focused on the philosophy and practice behind person-centered care within two types of settings.  The first is outpatient care for elders living on their own or in assisted living and the second is long term residential care in nursing facilities.  Senator Casey also spoke about the critical need for reform in health care and long term care for older citizens given projections on increases in Americans over the age of 65.  Currently there are an estimated 38 million Americans in this age group, and that number is expected to double within the next twenty years.    

Senator Casey also discussed legislation he will be introducing, the Promoting Alternative Nursing Homes Act.  The legislation would foster significant culture change in long term care for older citizens by providing favorable loan funding and loan guarantees for entities that provide person-centered care within a “small house” nursing facility framework.   

At the hearing, Senator Casey heard testimony by medical professionals, policy and academic experts, family members and direct care workers dealing with health and long term care for older Americans.  Dr. William Thomas, MD, Professor, Erickson School of Aging Studies, University of Maryland and founder of the Green House Model, spoke about the changing relationship between patients and health care providers, and the emergence of “patient-centeredness” as a strong model for that relationship.    

Robert Jenkens, Director, Green House Project, NCB Capital Impact spoke about older Americans living in a Green House as opposed to a traditional nursing home and the improvements in clinical care brought on because the staff knew and understood the elders better.   

Melinda Abrams, M.S., Assistant Vice President, Patient-Centered Primary Care, The Commonwealth Fund discussed the Medical Home model and the considerable policy and evaluation work conducted by the Commonwealth Fund concerning this model and its implications for better health outcomes as well as cost savings.   

Eric A. Coleman, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Director, Care Transitions Program, University of Colorado testified about transitional care (the times when elders flow between hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, and possibly other establishments), the need for quality and safety at the time of transitions and the impact transitions have on person-centered care.  

Other experts who testified at the hearing include: Zoe Holland, daughter of a former Green House resident, Lincoln, NE; Edna Hess, Shahbaz, Lebanon Valley Brethren Home, Palmyra, PA; and Diana White, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Institute on Aging, Portland State University Portland, OR.