Dartmouth-Hitchcock virtual self-care program receives $30K Cigna sponsorship

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The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center has received a sponsorship from the health insurance provider Cigna for a program intended to support the wellbeing of unpaid caregivers. 

The Self-Care Sampler for Family Care Partners virtual program is led by Dr. Ellen Flaherty, vice president of the Geriatric Center of Excellence at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, and will be funded with $30,000 from Cigna.

According to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, the program will offer instruction, discussion and activities in multiple areas of self-care, including mindfulness, mindful drawing, finding strength and balance through movement, reflecting on experiences, and caregiver health prevention and promotion. 

The idea behind making the sessions virtual is that it would ostensibly enable caregivers to receive the support and information that they need without having to worry about leaving their loved one home alone.

A small pilot of the Self-Care Sampler was recently conducted through the D-H Aging Resource Center. Sessions took place once a week for 90 minutes, each starting with a centering exercise and focusing on a new form of self-care. 

The program gave caregivers a space to connect with others and form social bonds that could extend outside of the sessions, according to D-H. The program received strong positive feedback from participants, and intends to make itself available to a wider audience, with Cigna’s assistance.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

The program speaks to the increasing reliance on unpaid caregivers that has emerged partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to the strain it has put on healthcare staffing in hospitals and assisted living facilities.

A 2016 report found that low-income Californians who are elderly and disabled were less likely to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized after their in-home caregivers participated in an intensive training program.

The rate of repeated emergency room visits declined by 24%, on average, in the first year after caregivers were trained, and 41% in the second year. 

THE LARGER TREND

Investment in the program is the latest in a series of moves by Cigna, which in August expanded its presence on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, pushing into markets in three new states for the 2022 plan year.

This fall, the insurer also expanded its Medicare Advantage plans, growing into 108 new counties and three new states – Connecticut, Oregon and Washington – which will increase its geographic presence by nearly 30%.

Also this fall, Cigna said it was selling off its life, accident and supplemental benefits businesses in seven countries to Swiss insurance company Chubb. Pending regulatory approvals, the companies expect the $5.75 billion deal to close in 2022.

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