Wilkes County Health Care Providers Promote Active Aging for Seniors
Access to quality health care promotes active aging
Access to quality health care is a cornerstone of Wilkes County’s quality of life. For retirees and aging adults, the county’s health-care community is especially attractive in that it is not only anchored by Wake Forest Baptist Health - Wilkes Medical Center but includes many assisted and independent living facilities, home health agencies and rehabilitation program.
“People who come to Wilkes County – even if they are passing through to the mountains – usually want to stay. It’s beautiful here, and there is a lot to see and do,” says Gene Faile, president of Wake Forest Baptist Health - Wilkes Medical Center. “Not only that, but we have an outstanding medical complex here, both inpatient and outpatient. Our West Park Center, with its comprehensive set of diagnostic and treatment programs, could compete with anything in Charlotte or Raleigh or any other large city.”
New Name, New Services
The medical center became a part of the Wake Forest Baptist Health System in 2017, which allowed the hospital to expand services and bring in specialists to better meet the needs of the aging population.
“We're in the final stages of construction to build a cardiac and pulmonary rehab center right here in our hospital. That's something we're very excited about and something that is very needed in Wilkes County,” Faile says. “Currently people with chronic heart disease and pulmonary disease must drive outside the county for those services. If you're battling heart disease and battling pulmonary disease, you don't want to be driving, and you don't want to have to go long distances for the rehabilitation. Our cardiac and pulmonary rehab center is going to be right here inside the hospital just inside the main entrance.”
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The 3,000-square-foot rehab center, which will feature an indoor track, treadmills and recumbent bicycles as well as a high-tech monitoring system that can connect to a patient’s personal fitness tracker, is scheduled to open summer 2018.
Lending a Helping Hand
Faile says physical activity is not only essential for heart health but also to the overall health of seniors. Wilkes County offers an abundance of opportunities for seniors to stay active and physically fit. Wilkes Senior Resources, an organization that offers services, education and information to enhance the quality of life for seniors, hosts many activities that get retirees up and moving at the Wilkes Senior Center.
“We have an exercise room where we have exercise classes, including chair exercise and arthritis exercise. We even offer tai chi and yoga classes,” says Suzanne Hanlin, executive director of Wilkes Senior Resources Inc. “But we also offer crafts and quilting and card games – things that promote active aging.”
Wilkes Senior Resources also have two Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIP) volunteers, who help seniors find the most affordable drug program for their ailments.
“It’s truly a good benefit for the citizens, not only of Wilkes, but North Carolina as a whole. In 2017 alone, the SHIIP program saved seniors more than $100,000 in drug costs,” Hanlin says.
Another program that helps maintain the health and well-being of seniors is the respite care program for senior caregivers.
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“Sometimes people forget that seniors who are caregivers also have needs that aren’t being met because they are concentrating their efforts on the person they are caring for,” Hanlin says. “Our program sends out certified nursing aids to seniors’ homes to help prepare meals, bathing, with laundry or to do light housekeeping. And while the aid is there, it gives the senior caregiver the opportunity to go to doctor’s appointments or run errands.”
The Right Address
Kindred at Home and Home Instead Senior Care are other organizations offering similar in-home care. For residential services, Britthaven of Wilkesboro and Westwood Hills Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center offer assisted living options. Westwood Hills also offers Specialized Programming for Alzheimer’s and Related Kare (SPARK), a residential care program for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Rose Glen Village and the Villages of Wilkes offer both assisted and independent living options with a host of activities for residents, including wellness events, social gatherings and recreational outings.
“Our seniors take advantage of all the recreational activities Wilkes County has to offer,” Hanlin says. “We have beautiful greenways by the river. There are free outdoor concerts and a great farmer’s market. I think Wilkes County is just a great community for seniors.”
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Wake Forest Baptist Health - Wilkes Medical Center offers services for residents of all ages. The medical center partnered with Wilkes County Schools and Lexington City Schools to provide certified athletic trainers to assist the districts' high school athletic programs. The trainers, who specialize in sports injury treatment and prevention as well as nutrition and conditioning, are a much-needed resource for student athletes. The medical center also pairs each school with a physician and medical director and is working to develop a customized concussion program with pre-season testing.