Beyond Senior Care: Why Nontraditional Partnerships Are Critical for Aging in Place – Home Health Care News

A number of organizations – including the top advocacy organization for older Americans – have recently formed relationships underscoring the important roles of home modification and safety in the aging-in-place process.

TruBlue Total House Care, for example, has formed a partnership with The Helper Bees. As part of the arrangement, TruBlue’s services will be offered in market areas where The Helper Bees’ health plan partners and members are eligible.

“The overall goal is to help seniors age in place safely, successfully,” Sean Fitzgerald, the president of TruBlue, told Home Health Care News.

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Cincinnati, Ohio-based TruBlue is a senior-focused home repair company that operates under a franchising business model. TruBlue specializes in house care, home maintenance and safety modifications.

Austin, Texas-based The Helper Bees works with large insurance companies and others to help with claims processing. It works with both long-term care insurance players and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, with its services available across all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

In August, The Helper Bees acquired healthAlign, an administration and fulfillment platform. The deal allowed The Helper Bees to bring together a range of providers — such as in-home care agencies, home modification businesses, meal-assistance services and others — onto one platform.

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It’s through healthAlign that The Helper Bees and TruBlue came together.

healthAlign works with MA plans to help them manage some of the newer supplemental benefits they’ve rolled out over the last few years, such as in-home support. The Helper Bees deal with TruBlue helped the company beef up these services, Andy Friedell, CEO at healthAlign, told HHCN.

“We had to think about broadening our network to be more than just home care companies, but also include some of these more diverse services that many members need in order to age in place safely at home,” Friedell said. “Home modification was a really prime example of that. It just made sense to find a really quality nationwide partner who had developed a specific specialty in this market.”

Indeed, TruBlue’s specialized focus and experience in aging services made the company an attractive partner. Over the years, the company has also teamed up with senior care companies such as Right at Home.

“There are a lot of contractors and handyman support in and around the home, but TruBlue has focused very much on the older American population,” Friedell said. “There is a range of very specific needs, projects, investments and upgrades this population can benefit from in order to maintain their independence at home.”

The partnership also made strategic sense for TruBlue.

“They’re a very large organization, and they have a great network already,” Fitzgerald said. “Plus, a significant amount of our franchisees are in those areas that they’re providing services. It gives us an opportunity to provide services that our franchisees can benefit from.”

Making strategic sense

The formation of these partnerships makes sense on several levels.

Roughly 77% of people 50 and older would like to stay in their current home as long as possible. Despite this, less than 1% of U.S. homes have particular features needed to support aging in the home, according to AARP.

The problem of homes not being set up for aging in place is often underscored when falls occur. It’s estimated that falls cost over $50 billion a year in medical expenses, and individuals over 65 have a 10% annual probability of suffering a serious fall costing an average of $11,500 in related expenses.

Another collaboration that is focused on home modifications in relation to aging in place is one between home improvement retail company Lowe’s and AARP.

Lowe’s recently announced the launch of “Lowe’s Livable Home,” which offers senior-focused home modification services. The company’s goal is to become a “one-stop destination for universal design options.”

In order to accomplish this, Lowe’s associates and managers will receive training from AARP. The training will focus on practical skills and information to support seniors looking to improve their home.

“There’s this big gap between the homes we have and homes we need,” Rodney Harrell, vice president for family, home and community at AARP, told HHCN. “What Lowe’s provides us is a way to help homeowners … make the changes that they need [to their homes].”

As a company that, prior to this launch, worked outside of aging service, Lowe’s brings a fresh perspective, according to Harrell.

“We cannot just rely on the network of senior aging facilities, senior specialists and the like to really fully address this societal gap we’re talking about,” he said. “There’s an important role for those organizations, but there’s also an important role for designers, builders, architects and home-improvement stores. I view this as an all-hands-on-deck kind of an issue, one where we need everyone connected to homes, care and the people in them on board.”

While AARP has always made a point to collaborate with organizations outside of senior care and aging services, Harrell believes that relationships like the one with Lowe’s will become more common as a response to the U.S. aging population.

“As designers, builders and others are thinking about how to create homes, they’ll be looking for expertise in dealing with and working for people of all ages,” he said. “It’s only natural. They see the demographic shift that’s happening.”

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