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Growing and improving elder care services

Jill Graziano has made it easier for patients and their families to voice their opinions—and to feel comfortable doing it.

As executive director of ElderONE, an affiliate of Rochester Regional Health System, Graziano set up a patient advisory council, in which participants and caregivers are encouraged to make suggestions and recommendations for improvements.

“It’s created a real sense of confidence that the patients can speak up and positive action will come and there won’t be any kind of negative consequences,” RRHS director Linda Becker said. “Why is that important? Patients feel like they’re part of the team.”

ElderONE is part of the federal Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly that provides frail seniors with a full cohort of health care services, including medical and personal care, rehabilitation, medication, activities and transportation.

It is Graziano’s job to help set the direction and vision of the organization and to make sure that every team member at every level understands what that vision is. ElderONE serves both patients and their loved ones, she said.

“If you think about working mothers who have elderly parents and they also have children they’re trying to care for, worrying about how your mom is going to get to her appointment or how your mom is going to get her food or if your mom is going to slip and fall again, it’s very stressful for caregivers,” Graziano said. “When I think about what we do, we truly try to provide a level of service that allows those individuals to remain in whatever it is they call home.”

Graziano knows firsthand what the organization’s programs can do. Her grandmother, who recently turned 95, is in the program. Prior to enrolling, she had not moved from her home in three years and primarily was relegated to her bed.

“Now she comes to the center six days a week, gets dropped off every day with the assistance of an aide, and she has relationships with her aide and her driver that comes every day,” Graziano said. “The change in her is remarkable. Someone getting out of the house and being around others is just remarkable how much it can change someone.”

The biggest challenge the organization faces is a growing population that needs elder services, Graziano and her colleagues say.

“As you look at the future there’s not going to be enough younger people to take care of all the older people,” Becker said. “How do you redefine what services you’re going to need in the future, and how do you decide who does what?”

To that end, Graziano has worked to grow ElderONE to accommodate more patients. Participation has grown nearly 70 percent, from 390 to 662 clients, since 2012. Graziano was instrumental in opening a second day center in 2013 and the organization is in the process of opening a third in Monroe County, as well as extending to Wayne and Ontario counties later this year.

“She really is engaging patients and listening to them, acting on their suggestions,” Becker said about Graziano’s role in the organization’s growth. “It’s helping to make health care delivery better, therefore helping to reduce the cost and solve the problem.”

Graziano is humble when it comes to her accomplishments, noting instead that the growth and quality of care are the result of a team of individuals working together toward a common goal.

“I wouldn’t say it’s to do with me because I’m not the one who’s out there providing all the great care,” she said. “This really is the notion of our program is all teamwork and it’s all reliant on the caring nature of every person in our program at all levels.”

3/20/15 (c) 2015 RBJ Health Care Achievement Awards. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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