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National program helping seniors live independently at home

An average of 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S. and many of them would prefer to age in place at their homes. For Pauline Henry, that meant making small changes to her Baltimore home of 43 years. The changes were possible thanks to the CAPABLE program from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
At Pauline Henry’s Baltimore home, they made changes to her restroom and added an additional banister, seen on the right side of the staircase, to help her get up and down the stairs.
The CAPABLE program also helped install grab bars at strategic places around Pauline Henry's home, for added mobility. In addition, the program also focuses on occupational therapy for seniors, to improve their quality of life. CAPABLE is now at 35 locations in 18 states, with hopes to expand.
Posted at 10:33 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 12:33:51-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — For Pauline Henry, her collection of wind chimes holds some of the many memories tied to her home of 43 years.

“This has been home. It’s home, not a house, but a home,” she said.

It’s a home she does not want to leave.

“I want to die at home, if at all possible,” Henry said.

However, when health issues arose, staying became a challenge. That’s when the CAPABLE program from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing stepped in.

“I realized there is a big need that we weren't meeting in the medical system and that doctors and nurses don't tend to ask people about their function, about if they can stand long enough to cook or if they can get their foot over into the tub, for example,” said Sarah Szanton, a JHU School of Nursing professor who helped start the program.

The CAPABLE program seeks to address the challenges of getting older, by getting nurses and occupational therapists into the homes of seniors for four months. They help look after not only their health but also help make small changes to the homes for better mobility.

“We added grab bars for her to get up onto this platform,” said Ally Evelyn-Gustave, CAPABLE’s lead occupational therapist.

At Henry’s Baltimore home, they made changes to her restroom and added an additional banister and grab handles to help her get up and down the stairs.

“If you just work on the person, if you're just thinking about their diabetes, for example, that's not going to help them function,” Szanton said. “And if you're just thinking about the home, that could be great, a ramp or a step stool or something, but capable combines the person and the environment, in terms of what the older adult wants.”

In America, there are a lot of older adults--an average of 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S., about 300,000 per month.

While it initially began in Maryland, CAPABLE is now at 35 locations in 18 states, including California, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas, among others.

While some insurers cover the program, there’s an even bigger goal now.

“We're talking with Congress,” Szanton said. “But the real goal is to get Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to pay for it so that all older adults who need it can benefit.”

In the meantime, Pauline Henry is grateful she can still live at home.

“I can still do things for myself and I look around me and I think things over and I know where I came from,” she said. “So, it's all good. It's all good."

It’s a chance to live independently that is invaluable.

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