Studies Show Value of Home-based Mental Care

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Studies Show Value of Home-based Mental CareTwo studies from the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing show the value of low cost, home-based interventions to combat depression among elderly African-Americans. Could a similar program – run in conjunction with a local health authority or hospital system – provide benefits for the elderly in your community and raise the stature of your home health agency?

The program, called Beat the Blues, was specifically designed for this population, but the concepts should be readily transferable to other settings and other populations. Researchers from the Center for Innovative Care in Aging engaged more than 200 participants from a local senior center, primarily unemployed women who lived alone and were experiencing both health and financial problems. During the randomized trial, one-half participated in the program and one-half were put on a waiting list.

Sessions were conducted by a social worker in participants’ homes and included such topics as depression education, care management and stress management. It also included specialized health and self-care goal setting, with social workers referring participants to community-based services where appropriate.

At the four-month mark, two-thirds of participants reported “meaningful reductions” in symptoms of depression. The waiting list participants were then added to the study, and overall results at the eight-month mark showed a 70% reduction in depressive symptoms.

I’ve written previously about the value of social workers, who in a New York pilot program helped reduce hospital readmissions among recently discharged patients by 50%.

The traditional role of home health agencies in the post-acute care spectrum is evolving at lightning speed. The industry is being recognized as a lower-cost provider versus nursing home and hospitals to help a mostly elderly population age gracefully at home. I urge you to study your local market and leverage the talents of your nurses, therapists, social workers and others to play a larger role in the overall health of the communities you serve.

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