The long-term care industry has dramatically shifted how it treats behavioral health needs in the 11 years since LifeSource Inc. was first founded, according to President Peggy Baddour.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, those needs have only become more clear for the long-term care facilities, independent living communities and behavioral health agencies LifeSource serves.

LifeSource is a healthcare management service organization focused on mental health. It provides onsite psychiatric medication management and psychotherapy services to the residents of long-term care facilities, independent living communities, behavioral health centers, hospitals and behavioral health agencies throughout the central and eastern United States.

This month, LifeSource announced a partnership with North Shore Healthcare to provide behavioral health services in 71 facilities across four states.

"We are extremely excited about our partnership with LifeSource as they are a proven expert in the field of behavior and mental health," North Shore managing partner and CEO David Mills said. "I am confident that providing a coordinated and consistent approach in this critically important area will result in better patient care."

North Shore HealthCare offers long-term nursing care, short-term rehabilitation services and assisted living services to communities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and North Dakota. Its skilled nursing centers treat varying diagnoses and deliver clinical care, dietary services, social activities, rehabilitation and more.

North Shore Healthcare entered into a Professional Services Agreement with GAPS Health, a Dallas-based physician-led organization specializing in Medical Directorships and valued based initiatives for post acute facilities, last September to improve the quality of care of its residents.

"We are truly excited about this wonderful opportunity to work with the North Shore team, as well as GAPS Health, to improve the quality of life for the residents of North Shore," Baddour told Skilled Nursing News. "We kind of feel like the 'it girl' right now."

As part of the partnership, LifeSource will be doing onsite education to ensure there is a better understanding of how to treat patients with depression and mental health needs.

"A lot of these facilities don't hire mental health professionals. They're hiring nurses," Baddour explained. "We've actually put together a curriculum for behavioral health training that we will launch with North Shore. It's going to teach them about depression and how to identify certain behaviors and how to treat patients with mental health needs."

If, for example, a patient is screaming in his or her room down the hall, it may be a sign that they are having a PTSD moment and something is triggering that behavior. If that were the case, only people with mental health care training would be able to identify and address the problem.

"The only way they would know that is through great education. One thing that sets us apart is our education and training," Baddour added.

Now with LifeSource in 16 states, Baddour said she has never seen such a need for the company's services as she does now.

"The post-COVID world in long-term care carries depression issues, isolation issues and more," she added.

At the beginning of the pandemic last March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over half of all long-term care facility residents suffer from dementia.

A 2010 study from Harvard Professor David Grabowski said the number was even higher for nursing home residents, with estimates of those who had a significant mental disorder ranging between 65% and 91%. The pandemic's impact on older adults will be a point of emphasis for research for years to come.

"These residents have been isolated for a year and you can imagine what that does to a person," Baddour said.

She said long-term care facility patients can feel desperate and isolated coming out of the pandemic.

"There are isolation issues, there are adjustment issues, there's grief because they might have lost a loved one or their roommate. It's been difficult for these residents," she said. "We're the folks that can come in and help them with that."

LifeSource offers both medication management and psychotherapy services.

"One of the things a little bit different about us is we have customer service advocates who come in in once a week, meet with each patient and help them get everything set up like treatment plans and goals for them based on the diagnosis we find," she said.

When Baddour goes into a building that isn't providing great behavioral services, she can typically see it right away in the overall morale of the residents.

"You can see it in the agitation level of the residents, or depression. People aren't going to lunch or interacting with different residents... Once we come in, give us a few months and you can see a really big difference with the overall feel of the facility," Baddour added.

One tool LifeSource has been using to improve the lives of nursing home residents and the staff that look after them, especially since last March, is telehealth, following an industry-wide trend.

"We do that differently than a lot of other companies," she said. "Not only do we provide telehealth, but telehealth assistance as well. We have a telehealth assistant actually go into the building with the iPad and meet with the facility staff to facilitate whatever needs to be done for the session to work."

It's one-way LifeSource is trying to shift the burden off an already overworked facility staff.

"If you don't have that telehealth assistant, all that work falls on the facility staff and they are busy enough," she said.

Finally, the data LifeSource provides to its clients sets it apart.

"We provide all kinds of data to our clients: what different medications they are on, what are their diagnoses, what types of things we are achieving in our treatment plans," Baddour said. "We're going to be able to look at the whole body and mind with the partnership between us and GAPS."

Source: Skilled Nursing News