Lewes resident Ed Agnew is a caregiver for his wife, who is likely to develop Parkinson's disease because she already shows symptoms of the neurological disorder.
Agnew said they have been making changes to their home bit by bit so they can both remain in their residence as they get older. "We haven't done anything big yet, but I'm making a list," he said.
Agnew recently attended a Parkinson's Support Group of Sussex County forum on aging in place at the Beebe Health Campus.
Representatives from organizations at the city, state and community levels spoke to the support group about options other than nursing homes and institutions and how to make home the best option as they age.
"The idea of aging in place is to keep you out of nursing homes longer," said Dennis Leebel, Parkinson's support group leader. "The longer you stay out, the more money you are going to save, and the longer you will live."
Chris Oakes, a representative from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services who leads the statewide Aging and Disability Resource Center, said up to one-fifth of Delaware's population is age 60 or older and by 2030, that population is projected to double, so now is the time to act.
"Long-term-care reform is something we have all been preparing for in the last few years," Oakes said. "In Delaware, we've had more reliance on institutionalized care, and the cost is much more expensive."
In recent years, Oakes said, state agencies have started thinking more seriously about how to accommodate a growing population of senior citizens and working to change the paradigm away from a standard of hospitalization or nursing home care for chronic conditions.
The Aging and Disability Resource Center provides not only assistance for caregivers, but also information and supplies, home- and community-based services, and helps defend the rights and protections of seniors, she said.
Megan Williams, director of the Beebe Medical Center Population Health Program, said at the hospital level, Beebe is reducing the number of patients who are readmitted to the hospital through a free, 90-day intervention program called Beebe Cares.
Williams called the program a team-based approach to care, where the team tracks a patient who is released from the hospital to make sure the patient attends follow-up appointments, acquires and takes prescribed medications, and is educated about recovery.
"What we saw with implementing the program is a nearly twofold increase in quality of life and an almost 50 percent reduction in hospital readmissions," she said.
Representatives also informed the group about the social and cognitive value of adult day care, and Lewes resident Barbara Vaughn announced registration has opened for the Greater Lewes Community Village.
Based on a the format of other such villages nationwide, this organization is a volunteer-based cooperative that provides elementary services and transportation for seniors, Vaughn said.
She is currently recruiting volunteers and vendors who can offer discounted goods and services to the cooperative to be trusted merchants for the community village.
"This model has been very successful across the country," Vaughn said. "We would like to be an example for other communities."
For more information about the Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center, call 888-223-9047 or visit www.delawareADRC.com.
For further information or to register for the Greater Lewes Community Village, available to residents east of Route 1, call 302-703-2568 or email email@example.com.