TRAVERSE CITY — Today’s nursing homes are not like the nursing homes Mark Jackson knew when he started as a doctor in 1987.
Nursing home residents he sees would have been recovering in hospitals had they been in the same circumstances 15 years ago, and residents he sees in assisted living facilities likely would have lived in nursing homes. He said the shift comes largely thanks to Medicare’s encouragement of hospitals to discharge patients after three nights of recovery.
“When I started in nursing home care in 1987, a lot of the residents were essentially paying room and board; they were given their medication, they spent a few years there because of their dementia,” Jackson said. “Because people stay in the hospital a shorter and shorter length of time, they’re coming to the nursing homes much sicker.”
That means there are more people in poor health in assisted living facilities, too, but few of those facilities have a physician or nurse practitioner on staff to care for residents.
Jackson steps in to fill that need. He and his wife Deb Jackson manage Northwest Michigan Long Term Care Specialists, a team of doctors and nurses who regularly visit assisted living facilities to meet with residents, treating and billing patients just like when the care is given in a regular doctor’s office.
Doctors and nurses work with assisted living facility staff and residents’ families to understand patients’ needs.
Visiting assisted living facilities means patients don’t have to travel for appointments, which can be tricky when elderly patients rely on friends and family members for rides to doctor offices.
“It’s left up to the family to transport someone who may be using a walker or wheelchair, and a lot of times they need to be seen when they are sick, so it’s much harder to transport them,” Mark Jackson said.
Jackson started working full-time in nursing homes in 2009, and slowly expanded his practice to include three nurse practitioners, one physician assistant, one physician and one office manager. He will hire two more physicians this fall.
Jackson changed the business’s name to Northwest Michigan Long Term Care Specialists in June and works with six assisted living facilities.