Increasing Natural Care Accessibility for Elderly Focus of Pilot Project Conducted by Northwestern Health Sciences University

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Northwestern Health Sciences University is working with the Volunteers of America of Minneapolis, Minn., to provide more accessible natural health care to the elderly in the community. Volunteers of America has provided $150,000 to Northwestern’s Wolfe-Harris Center for Clinical Studies to produce a one-of-a-kind project, focusing on the organization’s services for the elderly. According to Roni Evans, MS, DC, dean of research at Northwestern, this is more of a demonstration project versus a research study. She says, “The primary goal is to determine the feasibility of developing a sustainable and replicable model for providing integrated chiropractic, acupuncture and massage services for Volunteers of America’s elderly residents.” According to Dr. Evans, the integrated services will be offered to elderly residents with varying degrees of impaired physical and mental function. Some of the residents are in transitional care and are expected to return to their own homes; others are in assisted living, long-term care, or memory care. “Everybody is working very hard so that we can begin offering services to Volunteers of America residents by the end of January 2009,” says Dr. Evans. There are several things to be accomplished before services are offered. According to Dr. Evans, “Among the most important is learning more about the Volunteers of America’s facilities and how we may best help them meet their needs in caring for their elderly residents. We are also spending time educating Volunteers of America personnel about the types of services our care providers can provide, and learning what we need to do to fit into the Volunteers of America system,” she says. Kristine Westrom, MD, associate professor at Northwestern, says “The Volunteers of America funded this pilot project because they believed treatment with acupuncture, Oriental medicine, chiropractic and massage could positively affect the lives of geriatric patients; especially regarding pain, sleep, medication use, balance, strength and function.” Mark Zeigler, DC, president at Northwestern, believes that having a set of standards will help to “show how effective natural health care can be in providing treatment to the aging population.” The educational programs at Northwestern will benefit from this knowledge and will strengthen the programs at the University. The expected completion date of the project is December, 2010. For some people, it might be hard to focus for such a long period of time on one project, but Dr. Evans is continually inspired by this one. She says, “I’m inspired by finding ways to meet the needs of patients. If we can establish viable integrated models of care, and then evaluate their effectiveness, I think we will come closer to having our professions meet their full potential in serving society’s needs.” Northwestern Health Sciences University offers a wide array of choices in natural health care education including chiropractic, Oriental medicine, acupuncture, therapeutic massage and human biology. The University has nearly 900 students on a 25-acre campus in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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