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Program makes house calls to homebound seniors

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ATLANTA -

As we get older, getting to the doctor becomes more difficult. So imagine how hard it is to get in for a checkup when you're 107 like Georgeann Reed.

Reed is part of the elder home care program at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

At 107, Reed is doing remarkably well for woman who was never big on going to the doctor. These days she doesn't have to because Opal Williams and her care team from Morehouse School of Medicine come to her.

"So they come out and monthly check her heart, check her pulse, she's fine. Sometimes they'll do a little assessment --  a stool, a urine test and they'll send it back to the lab and call me, well she's fine," said Amanda Little, Reed's granddaughter.

The Morehouse School of Medicine's Elder Home Care program offers old-school house calls that give homebound seniors access to care. Family medicine residents and medical students get a rare look at how their patients are doing outside the clinic.

On each house call, physician's assistant and instructor Susan Robinson and her team check for hazards. Reed's granddaughter is grateful for these house calls.

"Because it's a help to her. See, because there are times when I can't give it to her, so I need someone to come in and monitor my grandmama to see what's going on," said Little.

If you have elderly loved ones living independently, Robinson says check in, to see if they're having any difficulties.
 
"Some of them it might be the bathing, the dressing, the transferring, the toileting.  Have there been declines in their ability to do some of these things?" Robinson said.

For more independent seniors, look for smaller changes.

"Are the still able to shop?  Are they still able to cook? Are they still able to do their housework?  And most importantly, are they still able to manage their finances and take their medications as prescribed?" said Robinson. "Observe your loved one. If they're not able to do some of these things like they were able to do, then you need to contact your primary care provider."

A lot has changed since Reed was born back in 1906, but more than a century later, the next generation of doctors is learning that art of good old fashioned caring.

The Morehouse School of Medicine's elder home care program works with a select group of seniors who have undergone geriatric assessments. Robinson says if you know a senior who needs this kind of program, ask your family doctor what's available in your community.

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