Ventura County: Senior Summit 2015

By Sheryl Hamlin

Opening the fifth Ventura County Senior Summit, Supervisor Parks welcomed the 300 seniors in attendance and 100 volunteers, sponsors and speakers. The theme “The Wizard of Oz” was a reference to Dorothy’s famous line “There’s no Place like Home” which was revisited throughout the day via the concept of “aging in place”.

Supervisor Parks reminded the audience that LBJ signed Medicare into law 50 years ago and FDR signed the law to establish Social Security 80 years ago. She then introduced Dr. Richard Rush, President CSU CI, who will be retiring this year. Dr. Rush thanked Supervisor Parks who spearheaded the Senior Summit five years ago with the idea of developing a focus of services for seniors. After introducing more guests, Supervisor Parks introduced Sean Zellers, who is with the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging HomeShare Program.


Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks

Mr. Zellers presented HomeShare as a matching organization between seniors (seekers) who need housing with those seniors who have extra space in their homes (providers). The “providers” and “seekers” first talk on the phone. If there is potential compatibility, they meet at the HomeShare office. If this is successful, the pair will visit the house and the space. Ventura’s HomeShare is a member of the World HomeShare Congress. Mr. Zellers explained that each HomeShare is tailored to the community where it is located. He showed a video of two women who had met via HomeShare and have been successfully sharing a home. He stressed that this is not a program for homeless. There are four HomeShare offices in Ventura County. Unfortunately, he did not have time to explain the legal ramifications of such a rental agreement, particularly in cities with rent control where eviction is almost impossible. Cards were available at the conference to sign up for HomeShare.

Each attendee chose two breakout sessions for the morning. I attended “Bringing the Wizard of OZ to You” and “Ding Dong – Is affordable Housing Dead?”

Dr. Renee Higgins, MD and VCHCA, CEO explained the $4.136 million federal CMS grant for innovation whereby patients with COPD (and associated umbrella diseases) receive help via a mobile team. The patients must be Medicare or MediCal eligible to participate. The goal is 2500 patients. After 13 months, 1000 have enrolled. The medical treatment provided will stabilize COPD, reduce exacerbating conditions, reduce hospital readmissions and reduce emergency room (ER) visits … all by treating patients at home in a cost effective manner. Thousands live with symptoms of COPD, she said, but do not realize they have COPD. Risks and triggers include dust, smoking, second hand smoke, genetic factors, infection, socio-economic status, air pollution, mold, animals, occupation with exposure to fumes and/or location of home, because there are pockets of dust and pollutants in the county. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and fourth in the county with the communities of Ojai and Camarillo having the highest incidence of COPD.


Main Conference Room

Mike Taigman of AMR explained how AMR’s trained paramedics make preventative house calls on topics like inhaler usage and disease treatment, particularly tuberculosis (TB) where treatment at home expands the reach of the local TB clinic in downtown Oxnard because the paramedics work 24 X 7. TB is contagious and transmitted via sneeze, cough, spittle and/or shared air in multi-person living situations such as homeless shelters, airplanes or prisons. People with compromised immune systems (diabetes, HIV, chemo) are most at risk for TB. There is a skin test to diagnose latent TB which detects 30 to 50 cases annually in Ventura County. TB is often brought in from other countries, he said. As for kidney dialysis, Medicare does pay for home dialysis, but you must find a provider who can provide in-home training. AMR is also partnering with Hospice to take care of end-of-life wishes.

Is Affordable Housing Dead? This was the topic discussed by Ron Mulvihill (Housing Innovations and Solutions), Sean Zellers (VCAAA) and Christy Madden (VC Executive Office), whose resumes are here.

Mr. Mulvilhill, who was formerly with St. Vincent de Paul Housing, is working on a plan to develop senior housing inexpensively using shipping containers. With the senior population doubling by 2030, the need for housing is exacerbated. A shipping container is 8’ X 9’ X 40’ and can be stacked and combined to make buildings. He showed pictures of the award winning Atira Women’s Resource Society in Vancouver. Whose 280 square foot apartments are stylishly compact and popular with residents. The building itself was architecturally designed by a California company Growth Point Structures. Locally they have built a school (Oak Park) and have three additional projects approved in the state of California. Growth Point is only building multi-family structures or commercial at this point. The buildings are prefabricated in their Riverside factory and then transported to the foundation where they are assembled. Mr. Mulvihill claims these buildings are much stronger than traditional buildings because they are built from Coreten steel, but only cost $1.09 per square foot above the foundation. He said that the US military has built thousands of units in the Middle East using shipping containers, so there is much experience with the concept.

Ms. Madden said that the rate of need for senior housing has eclipsed the ability to build it, particularly when “affordable housing” costs about $450,000 per unit to build. She is an advocate for high density housing to maintain the county’s open space. Mr. Mulvihill interjected that there is a movement to make affordable housing a State of Emergency in California, so it would be fast tracked.

Linda Henderson, LCSW and ACSW, gave the keynote luncheon speech “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” which centered on the brain. She presented the chronology of brain research and invention which has improved dramatically since the 1990’s “Decade of the Brain”.  She spoke how the brain contributed to longevity and in particular a study about the “Blue Zones” areas around the world with the highest longevity. Residents of these areas exhibit several commonalities: non-sedentary lifestyle (movement important), purposeful life where each day has meaning, downshift from the “always-on” lifestyle, belonging to something, belonging to the right tribe, no overeating, plants consumed more than meat and moderate red wine. She talked about visualizing life as we gravitate toward old age and in particular, life with fewer attachments to possessions, which is the hardest for most people.

After lunch, I attended the breakout session “Pull Back the Curtain on Technology”.

LeeAnn Harper from Livingston Visiting Nurses spoke about TeleMedicine:  TeleHealth  and TeleCare programs. Patients with congestive heart failure, COPD and diabetes may be prescribed a program of TeleHealth, according to Ms. Harper, a registered nurse. The goal is to stay out of the hospital and improve the quality of life with monitoring of bodily functions and living conditions. She brought a laptop equipped with the measuring equipment which the patient uses after training. The nurse forms a bond with the patient via technology because the patient understands there is a person on the phone and analyzing his data. This service is paid for by Medicare if prescribed by a doctor, for a limited period of time, usually 4 to 6 weeks. If a patient desires, his provider can prescribe the treatment and pay himself.

Cesar García, CEO of SilverGens, a startup company hoping to create a robotic tool for aging in place, explained how Home Healthcare Automation is an emerging industry due to the concept of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Mr. García indicated that his 42 year career in the medical devices industry uniquely qualified him to make this transition to Home Healthcare Automation. His detailed presentation on “aging in place” reviewed the issues such as cost and current inventions. He said that the average nursing home care is $91,250, while the average in home nursing care is $25,000 annually. With automation, these costs can decrease further and become ubiquitous. His charts on demographics and life expectancy showed that by 2080 a centenarian will not be uncommon.

He reviewed available technology including smart hearing aids via iPhone, automated pill dispensers, pill ingestion monitors and more. He said that CMS does not yet reimburse for mobile health devices but that may change with the 21st Century Cures Act. He said that all device makers were working on HIPPA issues (privacy in health care), but that these would be solved because the costs demand it.

Logistically impeccable with relevant content, the 2015 Senior Summit was a unique benefit for the county. County transit companies brought groups from different cities, although the oldest attendee, born in 1921, drove himself! Congratulations to Mr. Harry Norkin, who is a member of the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging. Ventura County is blessed with the exquisite CSUCI campus, where the landscaping and renovation of original buildings is nothing short of spectacular. Congratulations to Supervisor Parks and her team for this outstanding effort.


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