MA program brings doctors, residents to vulnerable elderly

A new program based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is bringing a new level of comprehensive care to underserved elderly patients. The program, the Harvard Geriatrics Fellowship, is funded by a three-year, $1.8 million federal grant. It brings doctors, psychiatrists and dentists into supportive residences populated largely by formerly homeless elderly persons.

Medical, psychiatric and dental fellows rotate through homes such as the Ruggles Affordable Assisted Living Community in Roxbury, MA, seeing patients in their homes rather than an impersonal office. Not only does this give each a special opportunity to improve their geriatric care skills, it also gives the patients the opportunity to get a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluation that might otherwise have required trips to numerous medical offices.

While all of the services are valuable to the residents of these housing facilities, getting psychiatric services on-site is particularly valuable, as many have chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues. In many cases, residents have been willing to submit to a psychiatric exam in their home, when they might have refused to do so otherwise.

Once the psychiatric, dental and medical interns have seen the patients, they collaborate on a comprehensive, integrated care plan. Officials running the homes say that this is the first time many of these patients have gotten a comprehensive picture of their needs.

To learn more about the program:
- read this piece from the Boston Globe