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Fairfield County Business Journal Reports: Eldercare Changes with the Ages

Fairfield County Business Journal Reports: Eldercare Changes with the Ages

Posted on October 8, 2015

See full article by Reece Alvarez 

People are living longer than previous generations thanks to advances in medicine and health care, but with this evolution has come a ripple effect of changes to the way seniors age and are cared for throughout the increasingly longer aging process.

“The golden years are becoming the golden decades,” Kristin Sinatra, director of marketing for the non-profit Waveny LifeCare Network of New Canaan, said.

Sinatra has been with Waveny for more than a decade and, along with CEO Bill Piper, has watched as new generations of seniors living longer and more active lives in their retirement are changing the landscape of in-home and facility-based care.

“We have an independent living building, the average age is 88, but in all of our services that number continues to get older and older — across the whole industry, not just Waveny,” Piper said.

According to the U.S. Social Security administration, in 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was 14 additional years; in 2014 it was about 20. By 2033, the number of older Americans will increase from more than 46.6 million today to over 77 million.

Piper and Sinatra said the current crop of seniors Waveny serves, which includes more than 500 patients daily across a variety of facilities and services, is undeniably part of an overall shift toward an increase in the popularity of at-home care in the assisted living industry.

As health care providers, Waveny has responded with a continuum of care options to manage the spectrum of need across the aging experience.

Waveny offers both inpatient and outpatient services ranging from caretakers and companions visiting and staying with patients in their homes, to their New Canaan facilities — The Inn and The Village at Waveny — which offer independent living as well as assisted living specifically designed with replica main streets for memory impaired seniors.

“In health care 25 years ago, we did a good job of telling them what was best for them,” Piper said. “This generation of folks have many more desires and wants, they want choice and options.”

Piper spent more than 25 years with Wallingford-based healthcare provider Masonicare, serving as the organization’s executive vice president and CEO before joining Waveny in 2012.

“We have done a good job of identifying the needs early rather than being reactive,” Sinatra said. “I think that does have to do with our non-profit, mission-based approach; we have done things to address the realities of things that are changing.”

For example, recognizing a growing desire of independent living seniors to age with their spouses, Waveny built couples suites, Sinatra said.

Specific in-home care services such as the Waveny’s homemaker and companion services, as well as in-home therapy and nursing services, were only launched in 2012 and 2013, she added. “That tells you about the magnitude of the trend,” Sinatra said.

For Piper, the future of assisted living health care is plain. Not only do seniors increasingly seek at-home health services, but the state and federal governments have also helped push the industry in that direction, he said.

“In the nursing home industry, there has been a moratorium on new beds where the state does not want more beds in the system. They want fewer because they don’t have the money to pay for Medicaid,” he said. “Over time, the state and federal government have enhanced reimbursement for home care to keep people from coming into facilities, so the growth, and a lot of the push for health care, has been to let people stay home.”

Piper said he foresees a future in which the in-home component of current health care services is “on steroids,” but that is not to say the need and existence of assisted living facilities will vanish, he said.

“There will always need to be facilities. If you look at what the government is doing, they base our reimbursement on quality-based measures, they want only the best providers to survive,” he said.

While other nursing homes have been closing, Waveny has added 200 jobs in the past two and a half years to a staff that now totals more than 500 employees, Piper said.

“I feel privileged to be a part of an organization where you see all these cuts and layoffs being made we are giving our staff raises,” Sinatra said. “We know and recognize our staff is at the heart of what we do.”

Find the Fairfield County Business Journal's original story here