John Hopkins University released results from their recent study which focused on how older adults respond to changes in physical function. One third of older adults who live in the community, nearly 13 million seniors, have a substantial need for assistance with daily activities such as bathing, eating, getting dressed, using the toilet, transferring in and out of bed or moving around their homes. In addition to using assistive devices like canes, raised toilets and shower seats, the study showed increasing need for paid/unpaid help in the older population. Sixty percent of seniors surveyed used at least one device; this multiplies as people age. For the complete article, follow our link to the Boston Globe.
Older people don’t get enough help, study says
By Judith Graham | WASHINGTON POST
About 25 million Americans who are aging in place rely on help from other people and devices such as canes, raised toilets, or shower seats to perform essential daily activities, according to a new study documenting how older adults adapt to their changing physical abilities.
But a substantial number don’t get adequate assistance. Nearly 60 percent of seniors with seriously compromised mobility reported staying inside their homes or apartments instead of getting out of the house. Twenty-five percent said they often remained in bed. Of older adults who had significant difficulty putting on a shirt or pulling on undergarments or pants, 20 percent went without getting dressed. Of those who required assistance with toileting issues, 27.9 percent had an accident or soiled themselves.
The study, by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, focuses on how older adults respond to changes in physical function — a little-studied and poorly understood topic. It shows that about one-third of older adults who live in the community — nearly 13 million seniors — have a substantial need for assistance with daily activities such as bathing, eating, getting dressed, using the toilet, transferring in and out of bed, or moving around their homes; about one-third have relatively few needs; and another third get along well on their own with no notable difficulty.
For older adults and their families, the report is a reminder of the need to plan ahead for changing capacities.
‘‘The reality is that most of us, as we age, will require help at one point or another,’’ said Bruce Chernof, president of the Scan Foundation and chair of the 2013 federal Commission on Long-Term Care. Citing Medicare’s failure to cover long-term services and supports, which help seniors age in place, he said, ‘‘We need to lean in much harder if we want to help seniors thrive at home as long as possible.’’
Previous reports have examined the need for paid or unpaid help in the older population and the extent to which those needs go unmet. Notably, in 2017, some of the same Johns Hopkins researchers found that 42 percent of older adults with probable dementia or difficulty performing daily activities didn’t get assistance from family, friends, or paid caregivers — an eye-opening figure. Of seniors with at least three chronic conditions and high needs, 21 percent lacked any kind of assistance.
But personal care isn’t all that’s needed to help older adults remain at home when strength, flexibility, muscle coordination, and other physical functions begin to deteriorate. Devices and home modifications can also help people adjust.
Until this new study, it hasn’t been clear how often older adults use ‘‘assistive devices’’: canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters for people with difficulties walking; shower seats, tub seats, and grab bars to help with bathing; button hooks, reachers, grabbers, and specially designed clothes for people who have difficulty dressing; special utensils designed to make eating easier; and raised toilets or toilet seats, portable commodes, and disposable pads or undergarments for individuals with toileting issues.
‘‘What we haven’t known before is the extent of adjustments that older adults make to manage daily activities,’’ said Judith Kasper, a co-author of the study and professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read More