VA providing better care for the elderly Veteran

VA teams provide specialized treatment for Veterans with geriatric needs


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As one who wore the uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps for 22 years, serving in World War II and the Korean War, Henry Holley subscribed to the Marines’ Latin motto: Semper Fidelis “always faithful, always loyal.”

Today, Holley is quick to apply that tag to VA. He believes the VA health care system has been incredibly faithful to him in the three years he’s been a patient of the geriatric clinic at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. The 91-year-old Veteran has serious back and knee pain stemming from his military service that hampers his ability to walk.

“I can’t get over how committed and qualified they are.”

“Every need I’ve had, they’re right on the spot helping me,” he says. “I just can’t get over the service and how wonderful and committed and qualified they are. They bend over backward to help me. I’m so grateful.”


Veteran talking to team of doctors

Dr. Rina Eisenstein (left) a primary care physician on the GeriPACT team at the Atlanta VA, talks with patient Henry Holley, who served in the Marines. With them is nurse care manager Cathy Woods. (Photo by Joey Rodgers)


Holley is one of some 1,500 patients enrolled in the geriatric clinic at the Atlanta VA, which formed one of the first dedicated geriatric clinics in VA. The clinic, which transitioned in 2011 to the Geriatric Patient Aligned Care Team (GeriPACT) model, serves a patient population with an average age of 86.

The GeriPACT team has provided Holley with support in geriatric primary care, pharmacy, nursing, mental health care, and social work, and it has referred him to other departments for optical and dermatology services. The Atlanta VA has also arranged to get him a walker and a scooter, as well as a chair lift, a physical therapist, and a caregiver for use in his home.

“I even get valet parking at the Atlanta VA,” Holley says. “I try to tip the boys, but they won’t take anything.”

A team of VA researchers recently described the implementation of VA’s GeriPACT model in an article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

GeriPACTs are like a one-stop shop. They combine traditional health care services with community-based services, featuring doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and other specialists. The goal is to streamline the health care experience of Veterans with geriatric needs and expedite their visits to a VA facility, rather than requiring them to set up multiple appointments with providers.

60,000 Veterans – 65 and older – received GeriPACT care in 2015

The researchers write: “GeriPACT is one approach for bringing an interdisciplinary, patient-centered perspective to primary care in a manner that can likely [justify] the higher staffing costs,” with less reliance on placing people in long-term care institutions. “It is a model which can provide training for the next generation of providers and clinicians.”

In 2015, about 60,000 patients received GeriPACT services, out of the 1.5 million Veterans at least 65 years in age who were enrolled in the VA system. The model is currently in place at dozens of VA medical centers, but not all.

Watch this 2015 VHA video for a close-up look at a GeriPACT in action.

In addition to the elderly, GeriPACTs treat younger patients with geriatric-type needs. Dr. Rina Eisenstein, a primary care physician with the Atlanta GeriPACT, says one of her patients is a 59-year-old Veteran with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. “These types of patients are no way geriatric age, but they are geriatric-appropriate because of their inability to function,” she says.

With the Veteran population not getting any younger, Eisenstein hopes GeriPACTs will eventually be in place at all VA medical centers.

“We have a lot of Vietnam War Veterans who are getting older and had possible exposure to Agent Orange,” Eisenstein says, pointing out that such exposures can lead to numerous medical problems. “Those patients are very difficult to care for, but GeriPACTs are very well-equipped to provide care for them.”

Author

Mike

Mike Richman is on detail as a public affairs specialist in VA’s Office of Media Relations. He’s also a writer and editor in VA Research Communications. He joined VA in 2016.

Comments

  1. David Glassman    

    So far every thing has been great. Will it continue????

  2. ANNETTE DADVIS    

    SO, WHEN DID THEY START THAT PROGRAM? I HAVE BEEN A PATIENT AT THE MINNEAPOLIS VA MEDICAL CENTER SINCE 1994, AND HAVE AALL SORTS OF CHRONIC PAIN ISSUES AND ARE NOT GIVEN ANY PAIN MEDICATIONS FOR THE AMOUNT OF ACHES AND PAIN I’M HAVING CONSISTENTLY IN MY BODY AND HAVE BEEN TOLD BY THE DOCTOR, THAT TEST DOES NOT REVEAL THAT YOU SHOULD BE HAVING AS MUCH PAIN AS YOU SAY YOU ARE HAVING. AND I HAVE TAKEN THE CHRONIC PAIN MANAAGEMENT CLASSES AND STILL AM IN PAIN, I HAVE EVEN ASKED FOR INJESTIONS FOR PAIN AND I STILL AM IN SO MUCH PAIN AND SORENESS AND ACHES THAT IF I HAD AN OCEAN OUTSIDE MY HOME, I WOULD WALK ON OFF INTO IT AND KEEP ON WALKING BECAUSE THE PAIN IS SO SEVERE AND MIND BOGGLING THAT I CANNOT DEAL WITH IT AT TIMES, BUT I HAVE GOD IN MY LIFE AND THAT KEEPS ME FROM SUICIDE. OTHERWISE, I WOULD
    HAVE GOTTEN FREE FROM THE AFFLICTIONS, PAIN AND AGONY, LONG, LONG, TIME AGO, BECAUSE IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE DOCTORS JUST DOESN’T GET IT OR DOESN’T CARE. YES I AM NC NERVE PAIN ON BOTH SIDES BELOW MY BUTTOCK DOWN THE BACK OF MY LEGS, AND I HAVE TO LIFT UP MY BUTT CHEEKS IN BOTH HANDS IN ORDER TO WALK WITH THE ACHING AND PAIN BEING SO SEVERE, AS WELL AS FIBROMYALSIA AND HIATIA HERNIA AND OTHER AILMENTS AND IRRITABLE BOWELS, DIVERTICULOSIS, AND ACHASIA AND OTHER AILMENTS. SO YOU SEE, THERE HAS TO BE HELP, BUT I HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED WITH PAIN RELIEF BY THE VA MEDICAL CENTER, FOR THE SECOND TIME IN MY LIFETIME. FIRST WAS WHEN I WAS RAPED AND FORCED OUT AND HAD NO MEDICAL HELP OR ANYTHING AND THE VA IN MINNEAPOLIS REFUSED ME TREATMENT AND TOLD ME YOU WILL FIGURE IT OUT, WHAT TO DO ABOUT HEALTHCARE. SO IF THEY HAVE A PROGRAM NOW TO HELP ALLEVIATE THE CHRONIC PAINS, ACHES, INFLAMMATIONS AND AFFLICTIONS AND AGONY, DAY IN AND DAY OUT. I’M ALL FOR IT.

  3. Keith R Gerue    

    Better health care for the elderly? Then why is it that my 94 year old father, a WWII Veteran, holder of a purple heart, and former POW cannot get in to see a live, in person physician at the Kingman, AZ care facility? He has been waiting for MONTHS and currently has a cyst that needs to be surgically removed. That is ridiculous ! There are currently NO doctors on staff at that facility. Doctor via monitor doesn’t cut it ! If they can’t find a real live civilian doctor, I believe there should be a military doctor assigned there until such time that they hire on their own staff !

  4. Mary Ellen Casey    

    Is there a GeriPACT within the Boston VA Medical System? What services are available for a 100% disabled VietNam veteran with PTSD, Parkinson’s and Dementia?

  5. Walter A Kayden    

    So many things happen, as a geriatric veteran I have so many problems from the Agent Orange. DOW Chemical is so BAD!!!

  6. Richard Bonjour    

    Do you have a GeriPACT in Fort Wayne or Indianapolis Indiana?

  7. Deward Hext    

    It is not only the large VA units that take great care of older patients. I am a disabled vet- service incurred- and I cannot speak too highly about Dr Jessee Papac and excellent staff at The Dalles, Oregon Community Clinic. They do not consider each of us as a number, but treat us as friends.
    Thank you Dr. Papac and staff.
    The care they give is incomparable, and goes well beyond the call of duty.

  8. ROBERT KOSICK    

    I am 74 years old, do they have or plan to have a geriatric clinic at The Villages, Florida CBOC?

  9. William H. Harrison    

    The Stratton VA hospital in Albany, NY is terrific. I have been treated superbly there for many years. I never had a complaint. It must be a Geripact Hospital because it has everything that Atlanta VA has. I’m 92, WWII vet.

  10. john kroeger    

    how do I find GeriPACK facility near me in sacramento ca

    1. A. Earley    

      Are your services in Kentucky?

  11. Genaro Tamez    

    I am a vietnam who served aboard ship in the South China Seas. Served two tours. Would I be eligible for any benefits. We did stop at several amo depots. I cant see to fine much information.

    1. Jeffrey Spehar    

      You need to to to your local va clinic or hospital and enroll. Bring your DD 214 and some photo ID. They will enroll you there.

  12. Phillip Lindsey    

    The va clinic in Monterey ca are very good about helping us older veterans and I appreciate their patience and giving spirits l

  13. Frederick Coutts, Jr. USAF    

    My hat is off to Henry Holley!
    His story is encouraging in how the VA has always been there for him.
    I too have had a very positive experience with the care received and faithfulness of our Veterans Administration. I have to commnend President Trump and his Administration for the urgency taken to improve the VA.
    A special Thank You to all of You who are helping the Veterans with their needs. God Bless all who have served, who are currently serving and the United States of America

  14. Mark Rentz    

    I was not aware of the geriatric program provided by the V.A. I think this is excellent. This makes me proud to be an American and a Veteran.

  15. William J Senn    

    Very Good info but how about some Cedar Rapids IA VA info..??

Comments are closed.