A pilot program aims to help seniors “age in place” at three affordable housing communities near Sacramento, Calif.

To help its elderly residents, longtime affordable housing developer and owner USA Properties Fund has partnered with LifeSTEPS to establish the RN Case Management Program, allowing low-income seniors, many who have health issues and can’t easily get to a doctor, to receive much of the medical attention they need just steps from their homes.

The new RN Case Management Program brings nurses to three senior housing communities owned by USA Properties Fund.
Terri Olson The new RN Case Management Program brings nurses to three senior housing communities owned by USA Properties Fund.

“Aging in place is already a concern for many seniors, and it’s only going to become an even bigger issue in the future,” said Geoff Brown, president and CEO of USA Properties Fund in Roseville, Calif. “Access to health care is a major problem for seniors, and our program makes an RN available to answer questions, check on medications, and, quite often, provide treatment.”

The case management program ensures seniors have easy access to health care from a trained provider. Eight registered nursing students from the Betty Moore School of Nursing at the University of California at Davis will help with the program this summer.

The pilot offers an on-site registered nurse at three of USA Properties Fund’s affordable senior apartment communities in the Sacramento region.

The free service is one of the first of its kind in California and could serve as a model to help seniors age in place—a critical issue that has a far-reaching effect beyond health care, according to the firm.

Meredith Chillemi, director of aging and education services for LifeSTEPS, estimates the program handles at least 200 patient visits per month. An on-site registered nurse discusses health issues and works closely with providers and insurance plans. The program aims to help cut costs, red tape, and wait times.

“We are reducing costs and improving lives,” said Chillemi, who oversees the program. “We’ve even been able to save lives.”

The program has assisted residents obtain and monitor prescription medicines. It’s also helping seniors dealing with troubling allergies, nagging colds, stubborn coughs, or even chronic health conditions – such as arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high-blood pressure.

The RN Case Management Program is free for low-income seniors at Creekside Village Senior Apartments in Sacramento, Sierra Sunrise in Carmichael, and Vintage Oaks Senior Apartments in Citrus Heights. LifeSTEPS and USA Properties Fund are paying for the program but have started looking for grants to help expand the effort and offset the cost.

“The program has been very well received by residents and has been a huge success,” said Beth Southorn, executive director of LifeSTEPS. “Now, we are looking at ways to expand beyond the three communities and help even more residents.”

The case management program is part of an “aging master plan” that affects residents’ health and has economic and social factors. For example, an on-site nurse can reduce hospital admissions by 18%, according to a LeadingAge report. Medicare also saves about $400 in expenses per month for residents eligible for the government health insurance program, according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Residents also save money with the access to an on-site provider, and the savings can have a dramatic effect, especially for seniors living on a fixed income.

“There are so many benefits for residents beyond health,” USA Properties’ Brown said. “From an economic standpoint, the program is saving health providers, health insurers, and the government a lot of money. And our residents are happier and healthier.”

USA Properties Fund has more than 80 apartment communities in California and Nevada, from La Mesa near San Diego to the Bay Area, the Sacramento region, and Reno-Sparks, Nev. LifeSTEPS provides social services to low-income residents at many USA Properties apartment communities in California.