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Nursing home integrates addiction program for seniors

August 13, 2014
by Julie Miller
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Jewish Home Lifecare, based in New York City, is initiating what the organization identifies as the country’s first geriatric substance abuse program based in a nursing home setting. The initial pilot will serve 720 patients and seeks to integrate substance abuse education and addiction recovery with traditional post-acute care—including an ongoing support system that includes experienced caregivers and the senior’s own family.

Steven Wollman, an addiction specialist, will be the lead therapist. 

According to Jewish Home Lifecare, physicians who treat seniors often fail to identify substance abuse because they are not trained to recognize it and often don't understand the role addiction might play with other health conditions among the population. Older adults dealing with addiciton tend to be more resistant to treatment as well, the organization states.

The program combats a crucial problem in the hospital/post-acute referral process: Many post-acute facilities are not equipped for or willing to accept older people who have known substance abuse issues. Local hospitals that refer seniors to Jewish Home Lifecare will be tapped for coordination of substance abuse support services during transfers, and leaders have contacted Odyssey House to participate as well.

Growing need

There is a growing prevalence of seniors who have become addicted to prescription medications during lengthy rehabilitation or chronic illnesses. Multiple prescriptions and addiction can exacerbate cognitive diseases, falls risks, depression and other issues common for older adults. Even after a short-term stay in a rehab facility, post-acute patients can ultimately return home with their physical problems resolved but their addictions intact, making relapse likely and creating a cycle of readmissions, notes the company's press release.

"The Jewish Home Lifecare Geriatric Substance Abuse Recovery Program tackles a problem faced every day by our clinicians and by geriatric healthcare specialists around the country. With this integrated approach, we can offer truly comprehensive care to older patients dealing with both medical and substance abuse problems," said Gregory Poole-Dayan, associate administrator of Jewish Home Lifecare’s Bronx campus, in a press release.

In time, the program will serve 480 patients annually.