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Concordia program helps elderly age in place

Posted at 7:38 AM, Oct 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 21:17:05-04

One in four older adults will fall at least once this year. It may seem like something small, but it's the leading cause of injury-related deaths for those over 65.

Wisconsin has a higher rate of falls than any other state. Local college students are working to change that while helping older people stay at home and age in place.

The new program, Driving Wellness Home, started with an idea from Fresh Meals on Wheels of Sheboygan County. CEO Kelly Anderson said volunteers drop off meals and do safety checks. They might notice red flags but need experts to step in. That's why the non-profit asked Concordia University to help.

Sharon Chappy, dean of the nursing school, said they build on the trust the volunteers have already made with patients.

"A lot of times, these elders they feel that people are coming in trying to get them out of their homes," said Chappy.

Nursing and pharmacy teachers and students go to the home first to go over the patients' health history.

"A lot of it is de-prescribing, so a lot of patients have a lot of medication seeing if we can reduce the amount of load of the prescription therapy if it's not needed," said Emily Gomez, a fourth-year pharmacy student.

Gomez said getting out of the classroom and into homes has been eye-opening.

"I discovered that not a lot of clients have been taking their medications the way that they've been picking them up," said Gomez.

The next group from Concordia to go into the home is occupational therapy and physical therapy.

"They watch patients transfer in and out of the tub. They watch them get in and out of their beds," said Chappy.

Health professionals make written recommendations the client can take to their doctors and they work with Fresh Meals on Wheels to make immediate changes.

"Finding volunteers to come in and fix carpeting or to fix stairs. Some clean out gutters," said Chappy.

Clients including Daniel Erbstoesser welcome these visits so he can stay in his home safely.

"That's what I like about the program. They understand where I'm coming from," said Erbstoesser.

Everyone involved has a different specialty, but they all have the same goal.

"If we can find ways to prevent falls and just eliminate some clutter or to help people with exercise training so that they get a little bit stronger, we've really done something good for these people," said Chappy.

Driving Wellness Home has helped about 30 people so far. The program is funded with grant money, so patients don't have to pay anything.