Mruk Family Education Center on Aging hosts discussing on aging in place
The Mruk Family Education Center on Aging hosted an “Age in Place” discussion for Mountain Home residents seeking to find solutions to allow them to live in their homes for longer as they age.
The discussion was hosted by Jessica Brown, a physical therapist at Baxter Regional Bone and Joint Clinic.
“We like to make sure we’re providing topics that help to empower seniors to be independent, active and healthy,” said Diahanne VanGulick, coordinator for Mruk Family Education Center on Aging.
Brown said 90% of all adults want to live in their homes as they grow older, with roughly one-third of all homes in the U.S. belonging to people aged 65 years or older.
Of those living at home, 18% live with a disability, while 32% have trouble walking.
“I’m from Mountain Home. I’m a local,” Brown said. “I love our population that we have here in Mountain Home. Sixty-Five percent of the population are 65 and older. So, that is a stat from my friend that has a radio station. She knows those stats.”
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rate falling as the leading cause of injury-related deaths among the elderly.
Brown said the average cost of a trip to the emergency room in 2009 for a fall was $17,000, costing hospitals around the country roughly $2.2 million per year.
“If you put a frog in warm water and you heat it to a boil, he’s going to hang out and stay there because he’s not going to realize that’s detrimental to him,” Brown said. “That happens to us as we age. We buy a house, maybe that we love and we’re happy there, but over time that house or your yard becomes not a safe place for you to be anymore.”
Brown said residents should ask themselves what activities they feel nervous about doing in their home and take steps to make those activities safer. These often include taking showers, using the restroom, entering and leaving home, climbing the stairs and gardening.
“When do I feel nervous about doing that now?” Brown said. “Or I can’t do that as well as I could before.”
Brown suggested residents look into modifying their bathtubs with doors or purchasing a stand-up tub to allow safe showering. She also recommended bathrooms include handrails and benches to assist with showering or standing up.
Floors and garages should also have textured surfaces to prevent slipping and throw rugs should be removed if mobility is a problem.
Doorways should also be modified to make the ground as level as possible and American Disability Act approved ramps installed at private residences if needed.
Visual cues and lights should be added to staircases for those with poor eyesight.
“Even surfaces in your walkways can be issues,” Brown said. “Maybe that crack has been there for 10 years, but you have a hip replacement, and your legs not coming all the way through, it becomes an issue.”
Many modifications or items needed to create a safe home can be found online or at local medical supply stores like Davie Medical Equipment.
Brown said a Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey listed the cost of home modifications at $38,896 for the average person in Arkansas. Nursing home care came in at $62,415 annually.
She said Medicare does not cover the cost of most home modifications, but assistance is available through Veterans Affairs grants, Medicaid waiver programs, long-term care insurance, tax deductions and reverse mortgages.
“You can talk to your local churches or different charitable organizations that might be willing to help you out if it’s a matter of being able to stay home or not,” Brown said. “Long-term care insurance, sometimes you can talk to them about if you’ve had that policy in place, it’s cheaper for them to pay for you to have your bathroom redone than it is for them pay for you to go to assisted living or in nursing.”