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Helping Minnesota's Senior Citizens Help Themselves

Technology will play a major role in assisting Minnesota seniors access health information and be self-reliant.

There are many reasons for seniors to become tech savvy. And in Minnesota, taking charge of their long-term care is one of the biggest and best reasons.

The state is now in its sixth year of an ambitious rebalancing effort to manage the growth of long-term-care expenditures. A major strategy of this effort includes improved access to information via the Internet. Through the MinnesotaHelp.info Web site, seniors can access up-to-date resource information and the statewide Senior LinkAge Line information service, which provides in-depth, one-to-one assistance.

We believe that if people have access to better information, they will make informed decisions and use more relevant services. The effort’s goal is personal self-sufficiency, which will ensure that people are more self-reliant and less likely to rely on public assistance for their long-term-care needs.

Support Tools

During the next year, Minnesota will be deploying a long-term-care decision support tool. It will ask seniors or their caregivers to answer 18 questions, and then create an informal needs assessment based on their answers.

As the senior or caregiver uses the online tool, he or she builds a self-care plan, which includes caregiver, community and home-based resources. The self-care-plan developer includes six questionnaires about memory loss, medicine, health insurance, housing and housekeeping, safety and security, and estate planning. Each area uses in-depth assessment questions that provide information to the community resource plan.

Once the plan is developed, the user can save the file or send it via a secure link to Hennepin County, the first pilot county. (Other counties have expressed an interest in the plan, and our goal is to bring more counties on board within two years.) When the information reaches Hennepin County, it will be used by long-term-care consultants to conduct home visits or formal assessments and build a community-resource plan.

In addition, the state is planning to work with hospital discharge planners and other health-care organizations. With this information, it is hoped that the tool will be used to review care options, including home- and community-based types of services.

Senior Surf Days

Seniors who attend Senior Surf Days or community education will learn about the decision support tool as it is integrated in the overall curriculum for computer training. (See “Technology and the Generational Divide ” on p. 29 for more information on Senior Surf Days and similar programs.) In addition, as Minnesota develops more advanced face-to-face training education through our Senior Surf Days program, the tool will be provided to users as a primary point of entry.

The database behind the site contains more than 36,000 services, and 24,000 licensed providers will be added this year.

During the next several years, Minnesota will work with North Light, a software company, to develop additional consumer decision support tools. The new tools will focus on youth and families, with the release of a child-care information system on the Web site.

The site will also take a “Web page partnering” approach to displaying information. The goal is to allow for co-branding among the various agencies, but it will also maintain a single point of entry to government, for-profit and not-for-profit resource information.

In addition, the resource database will be integrated further into larger statewide systems. The database will be for case management and available for use by local county staff and other organizations serving people of all ages in Minnesota.

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Oct 31 2006

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