Expanding palliative care’s reach in the community via the elder service agency network
Over the past two decades, palliative care has established itself as a promising approach to address the complex needs of individuals with advanced illness. Palliative care is well-established in US hospitals and has recently begun to expand outside of the hospital setting to meet the needs of non-hospitalized individuals. Experts have called for the development of innovative community-based models that facilitate delivery of palliative care to this target population. Elder service agencies are important partners that researchers should collaborate with to develop new and promising models. Millions of older adults receive aging network services in the U.S., highlighting the potential reach of these models. Recent health care reform efforts provide support for community-based initiatives, where coordination of care and services, delivered via health and social service agencies, is highly prioritized. This article describes the rationale for developing such approaches, including efforts to educate elder service agency clients about palliative care; training agency staff in palliative care principles; building capacity for elder services providers to screen individuals for palliative care needs; embedding palliative care “champions” in agencies to educate staff and clients and coordinate access to services among those with palliative care needs; and leveraging telehealth resources to conduct comprehensive assessments by hospital palliative care teams for elder service clients who have palliative care needs. We maintain that leveraging the resources of elder service agencies could measurably expand the reach of palliative care in the community.