Senior Care With a Personal Touch

Editor’s Note: This column first ran in INSPIRED HEALTH Magazine Volume 4 — published by

Inspired Heath — Dr. Steven Sainsbury

Dr. Steven Sainsbury hates meetings – except those face-to-face with his patients in San Luis Obispo County or some-wherever he is needed in the rest of the world.

Back in November, 2008 he transitioned from hospital emergency care to develop a unique mobile primary care practice — visiting his patients in their homes creating a true house-call practice.

Dr. Sainsbury served patients for 20 years chiefly as an emergency physician at Sierra Vista Hospital. He discovered he liked the night shift best.

“I could be off duty sleeping when staff meetings were held,” he joked.

The U.S. Census as of July 1, 2016 lists the SLO County’s 65 and over population at 18.9%. As Dr. Sainsbury contemplated retirement, he realized he had developed the skills to prepare him to advocate, diagnose and treat San Luis Obispo’s growing senior population. He realized there was a hole in patient care in the county and decided to consult with two north county practitioners, including his fellow medical director at Central Coast Hospice, Templeton’s Dr. Jeffrey Bourne.

“They liked their practices so I decided to try it,” he said. “I needed a saner lifestyle and serving seniors offered the best of what I liked about patient care – diagnosis and immediate treatment.”

Hospital emergency care had also established contacts with every doctor in the community so his fledgling practice grew quickly with immediate referrals.

The new practice offered two major surprises. “Paperwork,” he said. “I always had staff to take care of filing Medicare and insurance. I needed to carve out time to do it myself.”  He spends a minimum of three hours per day on paperwork.

“I also didn’t anticipate the number of phone calls. Now I’m working directly with the patients, families of patients and medical facilities where most of my patients reside.”

Dr. Sainsbury visits 25 private homes monthly and has 300 patients in a variety of homecare facilities. Typically, 250 are private Medicare patients with others under Hospice care. However, after eight years, he is finally in a place where he’s adjusted his schedule so he can sleep at night. He doesn’t take calls after 9pm. And he doesn’t take on more than the load he is currently carrying.

Why is such a practice valuable within a community? “It’s hard for many patients to leave their homes even to go to a doctor’s office and they are always more comfortable in their home environment,” Dr. Sainsbury explained. “At home I can also check their meds and eliminate what they shouldn’t be taking.” He mentioned many seniors are taking Lipitor or Statins. “Frankly, after 90 they don’t need them. The side effects could be making them uncomfortable.”

His biggest challenge is dealing with patients’ families. “The family wants the best or the most care needed for their loved one, but in-reality will a mammogram help an elderly patient in all cases? Should I diagnose chemo when I know the outcome would be the same anyway? When I know a treatment won’t improve quality of life should I recommend it anyway?”

Dr. Sainsbury’s stated his ethic. “I’m the advocate for the patient. All I care about is what the patient wants and his/her quality of life.”

He adamantly advises families need a clear DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) policy earlier than later in life and one that everyone must agree to abide by. All must do what the patient originally wanted. The DNR will not complicate decisions when emotional stress takes hold.

Family – his and others – have always been very important to Dr. Sainsbury. His personal life has been full raising children, volunteering as team football physician for Cal Poly and traveling annually on medical missionary trips to faraway places such as the Congo, Jordan, Guatemala and the Amazon with several different groups — Flying Doctors, Doctors on Call and more.

“It takes a certain personality to provide a house-call practice,” he said. “It is easier or at least much different when patients come to an office or to the ER. “There is plenty of work for others to come into the field, but I believe there are only a few doctors that are willing to do what I do.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Sainsbury is loved by patients, families of patients, and administrators at the facilities he serves. I know this first hand. He cared for our Aunt Stella for the three years she lived and thrived at Garden House in Morro Bay after breaking a hip at her assisted living home in Michigan where the employee ratio was not sufficient to care for her so we were able to bring her to California and to Garden House.

Kasey Watson, Administrator/Owner of Garden House of Morro Bay, which is the first SLO County nonprofit secured home for patients of all dementias, works regularly with Dr. Sainsbury, which is how our family first met him. He regularly serves most of the residents at Garden House. There are fifteen residents living onsite at any given time. Garden House has a waiting list and encourages families to plan ahead, tour the home and if it will fit future needs, register on the waiting list.

Kasey Watson: “Dr. Sainsbury takes the time to listen to his patients needs and concerns, as well as their family members. He is available by phone and willing to meet with families when they have questions.   He collaborates with our care team by seeing our residents monthly which maximizes the quality of their lives by keeping him educated as to a resident’s current well-being. Our Residents needs can change dramatically in a short amount of time. When we need to inform or consult with him because of a change in a residents’ status he always responds quickly, either by phone, email, fax or text, whichever is most appropriate. Because he does this so quickly, it elevates our response times and ensures that best possible comfort and outcomes for the Resident.” Kasey Watson, Administrator, Garden House of Morro Bay

For more information: (805) 546-7650

To Contact Garden House of Morro Bay contact Ask for Jody Salamacha-Hollier or Kasey. Another note: After moving to Morro Bay and experiencing Garden House while Aunt Stella was there years ago, she discovered what a positive work-environment it could be for her and is now Assistant-Administrator after two years on the job.  Jody and Kasey are always on the look-out for caregivers to help fulfill their mission providing the highest quality of life and health and companionship for their residents. If you care and are looking for a loving place to work, give Jody or Kasey a call.




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