As we wrap up the 8 domains of livability, we look at the 8th domain – community and health services. As with the other domains, this looks at how to keep seniors healthy, independent and actively engaged in the community. This involves an adequate amount of care services conveniently located close by and are provided by trained professionals. And as with the other domains, there is also a consideration of affordability.
To say that seniors have different health care needs and preferences is an understatement. As we look at our aging population, we see the oldest of the aged, those born in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, have a different culture. They have experienced war, the rise of mass media, and a range of societal changes. Those many years have shaped how they approach community and health services. And we see the Baby Boomers come of “aged”, their experiences have molded their expectations of services in the community and health care system, certainly different from the preceding generations. As communities look at the services within this domain, these differences need to be recognized.
A range of services along the continuum of care, such as preventive care, geriatric services, hospitals, adult day centers, respite care, rehabilitation, residential nursing home care, home care, palliative care and hospice, would meet these diverse needs. These services should be accessed easily both by location and by availability. Residential care services, such as nursing homes, located within residential areas would allow older residents to stay connected to familiar surroundings. Education on the available health services is needed to assure awarness of the care available to them. Health services should also be affordable or support available to help with the costs, providing seniors with peace of mind that they will be able to receive care regardless of the ability to pay.
Needless to say, this domain has a lot to unpack. After all, the range of physical, cognitive and emotional issues are wide as people move into seniorhood. The communities that have risen to the occasion of meeting the requirements of this domain have spent a lot of time, resources and energy to address services and their older adults.
We are fortunate in Door County to have not only a dedicated medical center but additional health service options in the community. Not many rural communities have its own hospital, much less choices of service providers. That being said, accessibility is limited as you travel north and the options have ebbed and flowed there over time. The events of a new service center being built, another service provider closing a clinic, and the business transitions of residential care in Sister Bay are a current example.
Residential care across Door has always experienced its limitations, including its affordablity. And we found in the Age-in-Place Survey and Forums last Fall that many are unfamiliar with the options and restrictions in the continuum of care in the county. The ADRC is certainly the source of the information, but this lack of knowledge speaks to the need for education in our community, an important function in this domain.
Again to our benefit and fortune, our rural community has memory care services, both in the medical center and the ADRC. Both also serve an important function of referral to sources of financial support to address this and other health issues. As we spoke of in the Forums, we will never have enough home care and home health services, that is in part of a function of our ruralness. It is also a national epidemic, as our senior population is and will be so vastly larger than the rest. The only way to address this lack of care that is vital to having older adults remain in the home and connected to the community is to address how we care for each other. Do Good Door County is actively working towards frameworks that help us in each region and in Door County as a whole to be self-sufficient in its supports, and ultimately make it Age-Friendly. If you have ideas or want to help in the efforts, please contact us!