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TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA - Cherokee Elder Care is the only Native-sponsored facility of its kind in the United States. And it has gained the eye of inspectors from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who gave the program high marks after a recent review.
In the Spirit of Gadugi
Cherokee Elder Care, which is operated by the Cherokee Nation, takes a pioneering approach to both medically and socially caring for senior citizens, so they may live independently for as long as possible.
“We are a true medical home for our participants. We provide all of their primary care,”
said Dr. Steven Younger, Cherokee Elder Care's medical director. "We're responsible for all of their care, and their care is coordinated through us. That includes hospitalization and everything else. We offer occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, contract speech therapy, nutritional support, psychiatric assistance and counseling, a social worker that assists in multiple functions, and activities directors for the Adult Day Health Center that coordinate participant activities. We have two major divisions. One side is medical and on the other side is the Adult Day Health Center."
Cherokee Elder Care provides elders with an opportunity to socialize in the same building in which they get their medical care and transportation to and from the facility in Cherokee Elder Care vehicles equipped to accommodate their travel needs. Half of the facility looks like any other medical clinic, while the other half has areas for elders to play games, eat and interact with each other.
"Adult day care functions as socialization," said Younger. "The participants get to come in vans, and so they get to spend time with other people. They enjoy a whole range of activities. We have Wii, TV, bingo-and it really helps with the mental aspects of the challenges of aging."
Medical and social needs change. The Cherokee Elder Care staff regularly meets to devise a care plan for each participant, assuring individuals get specialized treatment as their requirements vary.
"It's very participant driven, so it's not a cookie cutter approach," said Sharon Washington, Cherokee Elder Care center manager. "One participant may need to be in here one day a week, some may need to come in five days a week."
Cherokee Elder Care is an inclusive facility. In the spirit of gadugi, "working together" in Cherokee, Cherokee Elder Care is not limited only to Cherokee Nation citizens or American Indians. It benefits all qualified members of the community.
"I think one of the wonderful things that Cherokee Nation has been able to do is to be forward thinking and realizing what a benefit this is, not only to tribal elders but also to the community of our senior citizens," said Washington. "I feel very fortunate, as a Cherokee citizen myself, to be a part of this."
A consistently high quality of care from a dedicated staff that takes a unique approach to senior care by treating participants both medically and socially since 2008 helped Cherokee Elder Care earn high marks and approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to continue serving elders in the community for the next two years.
"All in all we were very pleased with the results of the audit," said Younger. "It's an approval, a real acclamation of what the state and the national people think of our program. Kudos to all of the team here. It's not just about individuals, it's everybody working together."
posted August 10, 2011 7:00 am edt
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