CAPABLE, a low-cost program to improve senior independence?

The population in Colorado is aging quickly, more quickly than most other states. Related to our aging population, is the rising cost in healthcare, much of it fueled by chronic disease management which affects about 80% of older adults in our country.

And yet, despite the additional medical oversight required when living with chronic disease, the vast majority of older adults want to remain in their homes. According to a study by AARP (Page 2, Housing Preferences) “73 percent [of older adults] strongly agreed that they would like to stay in their current residences as long as possible, while 67 percent strongly agreed that they would like to remain in their communities as long as possible”.

The challenge of aging in place is complicated. Medicare is not intended to provide support for long-term care.   Medicaid does support long-term care but only for those people who qualify per Medicaid income guidelines. Yet, it is unclear what the future of Medicaid is, including programs like Medicaid HCBS which I recently wrote about here. As a result, there is a pressing need for cost-effective programs support aging in place. One such program is CAPABLE, an acronym for Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders. Colorado VNA is pleased to be partnered with CAPABLE’s founder Dr. Sarah Szanton and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver to bring CAPABLE to Colorado.

Launched as a research project in Baltimore by Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN, of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, and expanded to 12 cities in five states, CAPABLE is a five month, home-based intervention for low-income older adults with functional limitations. It entails ten, 60- to 90-minute home visits with an occupational therapist, a registered nurse, and a handyman who work together with elderly individuals to identify mobility and self-care issues in their homes and fix or modify them.

Preliminary data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center, which has funded CAPABLE, is promising:

  • 79% improved their self-care over the course of five months.
  • The average participant improved by cutting disability in half (i.e., the number of self-care tasks that are difficult for the participant were halved).
  • Participants experienced a decrease in depressive symptoms similar to that of taking an antidepressant medicine.

Further, CAPABLE is beginning to yield evidence of cost-savings via delaying nursing home admittance and proper utilization of primary care rather than emergency care. The leading health policy journal, Health Affairsrecently published results showing that the program, which costs less than $3,000, saves more than $10,000 to Medicare in decreased outpatient and hospital costs, including observation stays and hospital readmissions. Additionally, CAPABLE builds on model intervention strategies such as patient-centered care and motivational interviewing.

Colorado VNA clinicians know from their own patient experiences that a safe home environment is critical to the ability to function, yet the home setting is often overlooked by care models because they take place in a clinical setting. Thus, Colorado VNA was awarded a major grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, along with additional support from the Comprecare Fund at the Denver Foundation and an anonymous donor, to implement CAPABLE in Colorado with its  own clinicians and with home alteration support from Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. The grant will allow us to provide CAPABLE to 60 patients over 18 months split into three groups of 20 patients. After we care for these 60 patients we will work with Dr. Szanton to study the results and to assess whether our version of CAPABLE yielded similar or better results compared to the original study.

Colorado VNA is thrilled that CAPABLE is now underway and that we are seeing our first patients. We are closely monitoring clients’ progress against our goals of improved health outcomes and decreased healthcare costs, and actively looking for additional philanthropic investments to support the ongoing implementation, monitoring, and evaluation costs.

If you know of an older adult who

  • is having trouble remaining independent (difficulty with eating, bathing, housekeeping) or feels unsafe (at risk of fall) in their home,
  • owns their own home,
  • is on Medicaid or eligible for Medicaid, and
  • lives in the Denver Metro area,

please call me at 303-698-6306 so that we can evaluate the person for our CAPABLE program.