Private sector urged to get involved with issues on aging

Oct 3, 2012 By Becky Orr, For The Associated Press

Wyoming must prepare now for the impact of an aging population on state health-care availability and other services, analysts say.

The state's population is aging because Wyoming's young people continue to leave for jobs elsewhere.

"We have not developed an economy in the state that keeps our graduates in the state," said Dick O'Gara, president of the Wyoming Center for Business and economic Analysis.

Wyoming needs industries that use its oil within the state, he said. The state needs to add value to oil, coal and natural gas supplies instead of just shipping them out

O'Gara said private industry ought to become involved with solutions to stresses on service brought about by an aging population.

Steve Bahmer, executive director of the Quality Health Care Foundation of Wyoming, agreed with O'Gara that the private market can respond to try to meet the needs of the senior population.

It would be a challenge for a private company, Bahmer said, given the money Medicaid pays for services.

"It doesn't pay enough to make it a viable business model."

There are many efforts under way to prepare for the high number of older people, said Laurie Wright, director of hospice and palliative care at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

'Medical home'

One idea is to set up medical homes for senior citizens, she said. A medical home coordinates a patient's care through one central spot instead of treating symptoms at the hospital emergency room.

This one-stop facility is important for older adults, she said. Getting all medications from one doctor reduces duplications if a patient went to more than one place for care.

CRMC has established a medical home with Cheyenne Health and Wellness Center. Several medical practices in Cheyenne also are moving toward the medical home concept.

Medical providers also need to beef up outpatient services for the elderly, she said.

She also heads a palliative care program to help the elderly manage their chronic pain.

CRMC is working to establish a future Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, Wright said.

This total health program will be for people 55 years old and older. The Medicare and Medicaid program provides those who enroll with access to all their health care needs so they can remain at home. It offers an adult day center.

There are positive aspects to the future of older people in the state, AARP's Mai said. Today's aging baby boomers tend to be healthier than their parents' generation, she said. They are more optimistic and age better.

"It's not all doom and gloom," Mai said.

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