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Home-Based Program Extends Seniors' Lives
Date:4/7/2009

Half of the volunteers were randomly placed into the intervention group, and the other half served as a control group and received no additional treatment.

The intervention group met with an occupational therapist five times, including at home and by telephone. The therapist went through the house with the study volunteers ("clients"), and discussed their needs. The therapist also noted what home modifications needed to be made. Then the therapist taught the seniors how to do tasks differently and ways they could conserve energy during tasks.

"Our approach is client-centered and helps people accomplish their daily goals. We can teach older people, at any age, new ways of performing valued activities," Gitlin said.

Everyone in the intervention group also had at least one visit with a physical therapist to evaluate their balance and their fear of falling. All were taught how to fall safely, and how to recover from a fall.

The average cost of the whole intervention, according to Gitlin, averaged $942.

In a previous article, Gitlin and her colleagues reported that those in the intervention group had fewer troubles with daily living activities and reported a higher quality of life. And the survival benefits kicked in at one year.

The new report focused on long-term survival benefits, and they found that at two years, the mortality rate in the intervention group was 5.6 percent versus 13.2 percent for the control group. The benefit continued for 3.5 years, but wasn't statistically significant after three years, according to the study.

Gitlin said she believes the intervention provided "physical, social and psychological benefits," and that, anecdotally, she's heard people say the program "gave them back their life and made them feel they had a sense of control."

One expert agreed. "This study shows that there are solutions out there to help you maintain your independence," said Dr. Kar
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