A Johns Hopkins University study funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation got a lot of attention last month for showing how simple home modifications and other supports can help someone who might wind up living in an institution to instead live safely at home. To those of us at ICS this may seem more common sense than news, but if it helps to raise awareness about what is needed to support people in remaining independent that’s all to the good.
Raising awareness is especially important because the services available in New York City for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions that limit their mobility are often unavailable elsewhere, despite being legally mandated. As a result, it is still the case that people wind up in institutional care who want to live at home and who could live at home with the right kind of support.
The Hopkins study focused on low-income older adults, but the findings really apply to almost anyone with an ongoing disability or chronic health condition that involves a physical limitation or vulnerability. The men and women who took part in the study were visited by occupational therapists and nurses who assessed what kind of home modifications or assistive devices each person could benefit from.
According to Lauran Neergaard, who reported on the study for the Associated Press, assistance was tailored to each person’s priorities: Did they want to bathe without help? Cook? Be able to climb the stairs, or make it out of the house to go to church or visit friends? Some of the items supplied through the study were banisters, grab bars and devices to help people with tremors feed themselves. Handymen were engaged to make repairs in the home to reduce fall hazards.
After five months, three-quarters of the 234 people who received help through the Hopkins study improved their ability to take care of themselves, and two-thirds were better able to perform related tasks such as grocery shopping. Equally important, half of the participants reported fewer symptoms of depression, which speaks volumes about the relationship between independence and emotional wellbeing.
Services available to ICS members
ICS includes simple home modifications and home optimization in the services we offer to our members. This includes things like sliding bath or shower chairs, threshold ramps, and improved lighting.
Members are encouraged to take advantage of their twice-yearly assessments to ask the ICS nurse visiting them to evaluate their home environment for ways to make it safer and easier to navigate. If there is a change in condition that warrants an immediate evaluation of your home for your safety, members or their family caregivers should speak with the member’s ICS care manager.
For more involved modifications, the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities offers help through its Project Open House (POH). This service will arrange for the removal of small architectural barriers in the home of qualified New Yorkers that furthers the person’s independence.
To qualify for Project Open House the desired modification must be one that does not require either the services of an architect or a permit from the New York City Building Department.
Examples of work covered by POH include: widening doors; converting steps into ramps; replacing plumbing fixtures with accessible ones; removing sink cabinets to make sinks accessible; installing grab bars, door openers, accessible door handles, accessible height shelving, or railings; and installation or conversion of doorbells and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when an audible or visual system is needed to accommodate someone with vision or hearing loss.
ICS members who want to take advantage of the services POH offers and who need help applying can ask their ICS care manager for assistance in the application process.