VA Shifting Focus to Team-Based Comprehensive Care for Older Veterans
Posted in Uncategorized on May 8, 2018
As we age, our health can become increasingly more complex. The VA recognizes this and is now working to provide better care for aging veterans. In about 75% of Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities, doctors and other medical providers are now teaming up to make older veterans' care more cohesive and comprehensive.
Comprehensive Care for Older Veterans
Certain older veterans are now eligible to be seen by a Geriatric Patient Aligned Care Team (GeriPACT) at the VA – a personal multi-disciplinary team of nurses, primary care physicians, pharmacists, social workers and other specialists, working together “longitudinally” to provide care for the older veteran’s specific needs.
Veterans may already be aware of the “Patient Aligned Care Team” or “PACT” approach currently employed at VA facilities – often referred to by military alphabet names like “Bravo,” or color code names like “Silver.”
PACTs put the veteran in the center of his or her health care plan, bringing together the veteran’s team of health care providers for a more comprehensive health care approach and shared decision making.
Now, as the VA recognizes its fastest growing population of patients are aged 65 and older, health care providers are working to customize the PACT approach for seniors.
Veterans eligible for GeriPACT have more complex health care situations connected to aging, such as multiple complex chronic diseases, cognitive decline or dementia, or “geriatric syndromes” (such as falls, incontinence or being age 85 or older). According to the VA, GeriPACT is not for veterans with untreated substance abuse, and may not be the right fit for veterans who only need a prescription refill.
The veteran’s GeriPACT team participates in regular “huddles” to discuss the veterans current health status, any changes in care or health, status updates on treatments and overall discussion on how all care is progressing, with the ultimate goal of improving or preserving the veteran’s health. In certain cases, the team also works with hospice to ensure the comfort and quality of life can be preserved for as long as possible.
Veterans and their caregivers meet with members of their GeriPACT teams at their regularly scheduled doctor appointments to discuss any needs, get answers to questions, and get a better understanding of treatment plans. The GeriPACT team also actively works with community-based services to ensure the veteran is receiving the optimum treatments available, both in and out of the clinic.
According to the VA, the benefits of being treated by a GeriPACT team include:
- Improved care by leveraging healthcare team members with varied expertise and knowledge of treatment options, specific to elderly patients
- Improved integration and coordination of VA health care services with community-based services
- Optimized independence and quality of life
GeriPACT patients will also benefit from a “Geriatric Assessment” – or geriatric evaluation – during one or several GeriPACT visits. This evaluation takes place at his or her primary doctor’s office, or in other settings such as home-based care or a community living center. During the assessment, a team consisting of a doctor, nurse and several other health providers, will meet to obtain important information to help the veteran and any caregivers decide what services and support would best meet their needs and preferences.
You can learn more about the wide range of VA services and resources available to older veterans and their caregivers online at the VA’s online senior resource site.