home care

When SmartLife VIA Willow Valley launched almost three years ago, it was entering new territory.

Expectations were high for the service that provides Lancaster County’s only Lifecare at Home program, and so far, those expectations have been exceeded, says Andrew Solodky, sales supervisor for SmartLife VIA Willow Valley.

“We signed our 100th member just after the beginning of this year and we are currently at 120 members,” he says. “We’re extremely proud of that.”

Through the program, participants are assigned a personal Lifecare coordinator who is an advocate and arranges care when needed, either in the member’s home, at Willow Valley Communities, or at other plan-participating communities.

As Solodky explains, SmartLife offers a complete package of home care, personal and nursing care, while safeguarding members’ assets from the rising costs of care.

He says the success of the program comes from its uniqueness.

“There’s a new option in town that allows people to remain in their home and still have the same lifecare they can get at a place like Willow Valley,” he says.

He notes that statistics show 90 percent of seniors prefer to live at home as long as possible.

“When we saw these numbers, Willow Valley started asking, ‘What else can we be offering for these Lancaster County residents?’” Solodky says. “How can we better serve them?”

Although there are not specific statistics on goals for Lifecare at Home programs, he says, actuarial studies suggest a program like SmartLife should break even at 115 members, and that should take five to seven years to accomplish.

“We’re not even celebrating our third anniversary till next month and we’ve already hit that number,” he says.

This makes SmartLife the fastest growing at-home program in the country.

Solodky says the concept of at-home programs is not new; in fact, the first at-home program started in Philadelphia about 26 years ago. Currently, there are four at-home programs in the state — in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Lancaster and Allentown.

Solodky says he is not aware of any other retirement communities in the county who are considering offering a similar program, but it is a popular concept nationwide.

“There are 32 of these types of programs in the country,” he says, up from 15 just four years ago.

“These types of programs have doubled across the country and existing ones have been successful,” he says. “The idea of being able to age in place is very becoming to people. It’s very attractive. A lot of people have been in their homes a long time and can’t imagine leaving. This gives them the option to remain, with the same care and same financial protection as though they were in assisted living.”

SmartLife VIA Willow Valley offers full comprehensive coverage, he says.

“The goal is to keep people well and independent in their own home,” he says. “As their health care needs change, and they require more help, we can provide that safely to them in their home. If they need to transition to personal care or skilled nursing, we can help.”

Some customers use the program as an alternative to long-term care insurance, while others use it to supplement their insurance.

SmartLife members are a mix of people, he says, ranging in age from 63 (60 is the minimum age to join the program) to 87.

“Our average age is right around 72,” he says.

SmartLife members have used services at assisted living temporarily while recovering from illness or surgery such as knee replacement, have used in-home care, transportation services, meal delivery and rehab services at Willow Valley campuses, he says.

“We have people from all walks of life,” Solodky says. “We’re meeting them where they are.”

As for the future, he says SmartLife hopes to continue to grow within Lancaster County and eventually branch out to neighboring counties down the road.

He says people who are interested in learning more about SmartLife VIA Willow Valley can set up a one-on-one meeting or attend information sessions, including one on June 6 at the Heritage Hotel in Lancaster.

On June 27, SmartLife will hold a member panel event at the Cultural Center at Willow Valley, where members who have joined will host an open forum to answer questions about the program.

“If you’re interested in planning for your future, the best thing to do is start making plans when you are healthy and independent,” he says. “It’s much better to be proactive than reactive. It’s much more costly, and much more stressful, if you wait until you need care, to begin looking for care.”