AARP touts the home

Thursday, June 30, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A new AARP report confirms the old AAHomecare saw about the home as the "patient-preferred" setting for healthcare and sounds a clarion call for more home medical equipment.
In an AARP/Harris Interactive Survey that polled people with disabilities who are older than 50, nearly four out of five respondents said that if they had to change residence, they would prefer to move to a home of their own or a home with other family members. These and other findings that place a premium on community living have reinvigorated an AARP contention that home is the place to be.
"We must find ways to ensure much wider access to the equipment, services, and new technologies that can help all persons with disabilities, not just those who can afford to purchase them privately, remain independent," AARP's Beyond 50 2003, A Report to the Nation on Independent Living and Disability.
This point of view is welcome among home medical equipment providers, a relative 90-lb. weakling in the arena of associations that are trying to justify the value of healthcare spending on their own members' businesses.
The AARP report, which is based on a survey of 1,102 people, is at times quite explicit about the need for more equipment in the home. "At the very least, 'low technology' devices, such as canes and wheelchairs, should be available to persons 50 and older with disabilities who need them," the report states.
Providers of senior mobility, especially, have been arguing the same point, and not only from a pulpit that espouses higher quality of living for seniors. Recent analysis of power wheelchair utilization data suggests that putting seniors in power chairs saves Medicare money.
Today, the AARP is most actively engaged in the home care industry on the local level, where AARP chapters are "fighting in the states" to preserve Medicaid funding, said Eleanor Ginzler, director of livable communities at the AARP.
"The last time I counted, 30 of our states were engaged in addressing financing Medicaid dollars, sometimes through waivers, and right now to protect dollars being allocated," said Ginzler.