Personal emergency response system can help seniors age at home

Alan Wu

November 16, 2010

An AARP survey has shown that 89 percent of older adults want to age at home, indicating that the vast majority of seniors have a desire to live their golden years independently.

Unfortunately, chronic conditions can make this a difficult task. Paul Dunham, 83, who suffers from a neuromuscular disorder, did his best to stay in his house with his wife as long as possible, according to The Associated Press.

Little by little, his independence eroded. As the disease made him significantly weaker, he lost almost half of his body weight, dropping from 160 to 83 pounds in 20 years.

Still, Dunham and his wife, Nancy, managed to remain living in their home for decades. Dunham drove his car for years and mowed his own lawn as well, which became a point of pride for him.

Caregivers eventually had to help him with these tasks, but the Dunhams still managed to live on their own by receiving visits about 25 hours a week.

"I like just being independent," Paul told the news provider earlier this fall. He added that a nursing home had come up in conversation with his wife. "I said, 'I think we'd be better just sticking it out together.' And she agreed. The best we'll do is do the best we can and just be determined to do what we have to do to survive. That's what we did and it's worked out OK."

Nancy Dunham, who is 79, also has medical conditions that make it hard for her to remain at home. She has neuropathy in her left leg, which makes her unsteady on her feet, and she is also blind in one eye.

Much of the couple's independence is due to regulations in Medicaid which have sought to help seniors age at home while cutting the expenses of nursing and assisted living facilities to taxpayers.

Through these programs, the Dunhams were given the aid of the homecare agency that eventually had to help Paul with everything from getting groceries to shaving. However, a recent fall, as well as the deterioration of his health, eventually made it better for him to move in with his daughter. Nancy continues to live in their home.

Many older adults may be interested in living independently as long as possible. A personal emergency response system can ensure that seniors can send a medical alert to a caregiver or doctor immediately if they need assistance.