42% or 5,000,000 older adults in the U. S. do not have basic assistive equipment that could keep them safe and in their home. This shocking and sad statistic was the result of a study out of the University of California, San Francisco. These adults had difficulty with ADLs or were identified at risk of falling yet they didn’t have grab bars, raised toilet seats, toilet frames or shower seats.
5,000,000 is a shocking and sad statistic especially as we recognize Occupational Therapy month. Simple, low tech solutions were not available to 2 in 5 older adults with an identified need.
In the spirit of my advocate, participate, and advocate theme, I have a few simple suggestions for all my OT colleagues.
Advocate – Assistive equipment is a relatively low cost solution compared to the cost and impact of a fall. Unfortunately, insurance including Medicare, won’t cover if not deemed medically necessary. So advocate your elected officials to fund a solution. Currently, the U. S. Department of H.U.D. has a grant available that includes funding for occupational therapists to complete the home evaluations. See if an agency in your community is applying for the Older Adult Homes Modification Program.
Participate – Since the cost of equipment is a barrier to many older adults, many communities have a nonprofit or local aging agency that accepts donations of gently used assistive devices to distribute in the community. Consider volunteering for one of those organizations. As an OT, you can inspect donations or help instruct patients how to use the equipment. No agency in your community? Maybe you should start one!
Educate – The vast majority of the adults in the study regularly saw their primary care provider, so educate the healthcare team you work with. Share the link to the study, post a copy in the break room and talk to your team about the important difference assistive devices can make for our older, vulnerable patients. Finally, educate your patients. Some will resist the recommendation to use assistive equipment so demonstrate how the choice will support most patient, number one goal – staying in their homes safely.
Here is the link to the article – let’s make a difference for someone today.