SCAN: Helping Drivers Understand Challenges Of Aging

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) Health Plan Arizona, a nonprofit Medicare Advantage Plan, recently partnered with Dependable Medical Transportation Services (DMTS) to train more than 60 seasoned van drivers about what it feels like to actually "walk in the shoes of a senior." SCAN has been focused on the unique needs of seniors for more than 30 years and is committed to enhancing awareness and skills in the community in dealing with seniors.

One of the ways that SCAN does this is to teach "Senior Sensitivity" classes. Classes are experiential and focused on providing participants' opportunities to feel, see and hear what common physical and cognitive changes that occur with aging actually feel like - and how much loss seniors experience as they age.

SCAN requires all employees to attend the Senior Sensitivity class in order to effectively meet the needs of their Medicare members. "We wanted to extend the training to our providers in the community," said Tom Lescault, president of SCAN Health Plan Arizona.

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Participants are asked to don heavy, clumsy gloves and then open medication bottles and handle "pills" or try to button shirts to mimic the difficulties experienced with arthritis. Some are asked to put popcorn in their shoes and walk around to mimic the feeling of painful joints or strap their arm to their side to see how limiting it can be to deal with the effects of a stroke. Ear plugs and an "unfair" hearing test are used to demonstrate how isolating hearing loss can be. Perhaps most difficult for many participants is when they are asked to wear special glasses that severely limit their vision.

"I had no idea what it's like when you have problems with your vision," said one of the drivers. In addition to experiencing the cognitive and physical changes, participants learn more effective communication techniques for senior-specific needs and ways to create a more senior-friendly environment.

"Now I really understand how important it is to talk directly to the person I'm transporting and make sure they understand what it is I'm asking them to do," said another driver.

DMTS is the premier non-emergency transport company in Arizona. DMTS specializes in wheelchair and stretcher transports for seniors and other patients with disabilities. Rich Ganley, the positive impact executive for DMTS, applauds SCAN for their partnership and excellent training program.

"We pride ourselves in having the best driver crew in the industry," said Ganley. We recruit the best and put the drivers through extensive training: first aid, CPR, defensive driving, safe transferring of the patient, HIPPA, OSHA, and customer service training. SCAN's additional Senior Sensitivity training is a unique opportunity that helps everyone - especially our senior riders."

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