Senior Health Link (SHL) is a unique program founded in 1990 to bring free health assessment, maintenance, and education services to the frail, low-income and Hispanic elderly in Chester County, while providing a home health clinical experience for area nursing students.
SHL's mission is to:
- Promote optimal health and independence for the frail elderly
- Facilitate elderly clients remaining in their own home as long as possible
- Facilitate outreach to low-income and Hispanic elderly
- Promote home safety measures to prevent accidents
- Prevent unplanned hospitalizations, lack of treatment, and poly-pharmacy
- Provide quality education for health care students
- Increase cultural awareness for health care students
A grant from the Connelly Foundation will supplement two United Way grants the program receives for its general operating support, which provide for the SHL Outreach Coordinator's salary, benefits, travel time and program supplies.
SHL is a three-pronged program that includes the following elements:
- the Home Visit Program, which provides a clinical home nursing practicum for upper-level nursing students as they visit clients in their homes.
- the Information Hotline, a dedicated telephone line available to the general public which enables SHL staff to answer questions, make referrals, and reach about health issues.
- and, the Outreach Program, in which the coordinator, often with the assistance of the nursing students, carries out community-based screenings for high blood pressure, fall risk, vision, stroke risk, and other health-related topics. Flu immunizations, and a Parkinsons Support Group are also facilitated.
These programs are offered at senior living facilities, low-income housing facilities, senior centers, churches, and YMCA's throughout Chester County.
SHL clients are the frail elderly who have been recently discharged from home care or the hospital, have chronic diseases, or are no longer eligible for insured home care, but who still need occasional monitoring and educational reinforcement to maintain their independence. In addition, SHL serves low-income and Hispanic elderly individuals who have limited access to health resources and/or lack transportation.
For clients who have language barriers, nursing students often utilize an interpreter, acquiring a transcultural nursing experience while seeing firsthand the barriers that frail, low-income and Hispanic elderly face as they assist these vulnerable populations with accessing healthcare. The Outreach Coordinator and the nursing students assess clients' physical, emotional, mental and nutritional status, provide medication teaching, resources and referrals, survey the safety of the home, the clients' level of independence, their compliance with medication instructions, and the caregivers' emotional status. Students also assist the Outreach Coordinator with a variety of health clinics.