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Helping low-income seniors with disabilities age in place

September 29, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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It began as a simple question: How can your life at home be better?

Researchers say the answers, collected as part of a federally funded project, have the potential to improve older adults’ ability to age in place. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation funded the program, Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) that program hinges on two ideas: environment influences health and seniors should set goals to improve their own health.

Seventy-five percent of participants were able to perform more activities of daily living after completing the five-month program. Participants had, on average, difficulty with 2.0 out of 8.0 ADLs compared to 3.9 at baseline. Symptoms of depression also improved when participants didn’t have to rely as much on others, according to findings published in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers studied 281 adults age 65 and up who participated in CAPABLE and were dual eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Seniors were paired with an interprofessional team of an occupational therapist, a registered nurse and a handyman. The therapist visited participants to identify assisted devices or repairs to help achieved set goals. The therapist then created a work order for the handyman to make participants’ homes safer within a $1,300 budget.

Szanton told Kaiser Health News as her low-income patients aged, their environments became the biggest barriers to good health. Some seniors crawled to let her in the front door because their homes weren’t built to accommodate a wheelchair.