Home Is Key to Aging-In-Place Strategy

As America’s aging population continues to grow, so too does the need for options to help seniors remain in their homes.

“There’s a real push for people not to be in nursing homes unless they absolutely have to be,” said Robyn Golden, director of health and aging at Rush University Medical Center, during the National Healthcare Innovation Summit June 17 in Chicago. “People don’t want to live in institutions.”

But many aging Americans face significant challenges when trying to remain in their homes, including homes that cannot support their changing health needs, burned-out family caregivers and a lack of community services. At the same time, those challenges also present opportunities for strategies that promote aging in place, industry leaders said.

Modify the Home

Older Americans often leave their homes because it lacks necessary modifications to meet their health care needs, Golden said.

“We’re spending more [to place them] in a nursing home when all we had to do was modify their home,” she said. “If we put home modification in a [home-based community service budget] we could show the impact of cost savings compared to being institutionalized.”

Housing is a critical component of senior wellness, said J. Thomas Briody, president and chief executive officer of the Institute on Aging.

The Institute on Aging is piloting a program to help transition people in skilled nursing who “don’t belong there and those at risk of being in skilled nursing” following release from a hospital into the home, Briody said, noting the programs also include other services such as transportation and groceries.

“We’re talking about millions of potential dollars saved each year and transforming a person’s life,” he said. “This is just a glimmer of what the future can be.”

Support Family Caregivers

The No. 1 challenge for caregivers is knowing where to go to get the supports they need, Briody said, citing a recent program involving caregivers in California’s Bay Area.

“There is a vast array of services,” he said. “But how do they find it? How do they pay for it?”

Without much-needed supports, the health of caregivers themselves can derail, creating a larger population health care concern.

“We do not have a long-term care policy in this country,” said Golden. “The closest thing we have are family caregivers, who are often times compromising their careers and finances. They’re depressed.”

Reaching family members before all resources are exhausted is key, Golden said.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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