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Low-Tech Devices, Home Adaptations Preserve Independence, Reduce Health-Care Costs For Physically Frail Elderly

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A case-control study of frail elderly, in which half of the participants received assistive devices and home adaptations as needed and half received "usual care services," has shown that participants in the intervention group sustained a higher level of independence at the end of the 18-month study.

The treatment group also spent significantly less on health care -- an average of $14,173 per person, compared to $31,610 per person in the control group.

The study, published in the May/June issue of Archives of Family Medicine, is the first randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of environmental interventions and assistive devices in maintaining independence and reducing home-health-care costs among home-based frail elderly

"The study demonstrates that a relatively inexpensive intervention can result in significantly lower health-related expenses," said William C. Mann, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy in the University at Buffalo School of Health Related Professions and principal researcher on the study. "Most importantly, higher levels of independence brought improved quality of life, and fewer and shorter hospitalizations."

At the study's inception, all participants -- 104 frail elderly living at home -- underwent a comprehensive assessment of their home environment and their functional abilities, using the Functional Independence Measure (FIM), an assessment tool developed at UB and now used internationally. FIM employs a 7-point scale to quantify performance in a wide range of daily living activities.

Participants then were assigned randomly to either the intervention group or the control group. The treatment group received the necessary assistive devices or home modifications indicated by their assessment. The control group's "usual care" involved hospital or nursing home care, at-home health care and any services provided
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-2626
University at Buffalo
13-May-1999


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