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What will the CAPABLE Project reveal about aging in place?

Posted August 12, 2013

Living in a nursing home can be very pricey, costing tens of thousands of dollars a year, particularly if you seek a high quality of care and a pleasant environment; Medicare and Medicaid budgets are also stretched in covering seniors' nursing home stays.  But even beyond the financial issues, most seniors (close to 90%, according to a recent AARP survey) would prefer aging in place, provided they can be safe and not isolated.  Currently, a project underway in Baltimore is investing in safe home modifications for seniors, in the hopes that they'll be less likely to need a nursing home.

Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) is working with 800 low-income seniors to make some relatively inexpensive adjustments to their homes and their daily schedules to be able to better preserve their capacity to live independently; the project administrators will then see, on average, the effect of these modifications on the length of time seniors are able to stay safely independent.  Even though the modifications may cost a few thousand dollars, they can save money in the long run by preventing or forestalling nursing home admission, while also fulfilling the hopes of seniors who want to remain in their homes.  If the project is a success, it might be replicated in other places.

What can we learn from some of the changes being implemented by CAPABLE?

  • Each senior needs to be seen as an individual, with the modifications tailored to him or her.
  • If there's construction involved, it's usually to aid the prevention of slips or falls, such as by installing a railing in the bathtub or by the toilet, or fixing loose stairs.
  • Home furniture can't be overlooked; for instance, the article on the project opens with an anecdote of a woman with Parkinson's who slides out of her kitchen chair while trying to eat.  What are some solutions? Bringing a lift chair into the home is one way to give seniors a more secure place to sit, with support in multiple positions and much more steadiness both when they seat themselves and stand up.
  • The advice of nurses and other healthcare professionals can also help seniors adjust their schedules or medication habits so that they enjoy more independence.  One woman, for instance, was taking all of her medications at once, making her groggy and unable to move around; some medically approved changes to her pill regimen have helped her get up and about again.
  • Even after the initial modifications are completed, it would help tremendously if seniors are in regular contact with caring family members, friends, or people in the community, and also have access to good medical care.  To make aging in place last for a while, regular involvement and adjustments to new issues are necessary.

Given the great demand for aging in place, it will be exciting to see the results of CAPABLE and the long-term impact it will have on the seniors participating.  With some changes to the home, including the use supportive furniture, aging in place might be possible for a significantly greater number of seniors.

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Some of the great lift chair manufacturers featured on Lift Chairs 101.
  • Pride Mobility
  • Golden Technologies
  • Med-Lift
  • Winco
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