Every day, seniors lose their mobility to injury or illness. Over one in four seniors fall at least once each year, resulting in 7.5 million annual falls. 40% of those falls result in serious injuries requiring treatment in an emergency room. In 2016, ER visits for falls by seniors exceeded 3,000,000. http://bit.ly/2lPOub5
The goal of this project is to provide a roadmap for seniors in need to regain mobility by gifting them needed rehabilitation equipment. When their mobility is impaired, those without proper equipment fall more often. When they fall, they get injured and end up in emergency rooms and hospitals and are often forced to move to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where they can get higher levels of care. This means they cannot reenter their communities as productive, contributing citizens. They often have to depend on their families, who must stop working altogether or reduce the hours they work to care for their loved ones. And the communities in which they live incur significantly higher healthcare costs. Even with Medicare and Obamacare coverage, many seniors cannot obtain all of the equipment they need to regain their mobility and independence. By providing the right equipment for each individual, volunteer healthcare professionals and local citizens can help those in need regain their mobility and independence.
A model for this concept has been successfully tested and implemented in Virginia. The model involves collecting gently used rehab mobility equipment donated by members of the community being served. Volunteers sanitize, repair and then gift mobility-related rehabilitation equipment (wheelchairs; walkers; power chairs and scooters; canes and crutches; and bath aids including shower chairs, tub transfer benches and commodes) to low-income adults who have no health insurance or other financial means of obtaining equipment they desperately need. The majority of gift recipients are seniors. This equipment is typically sitting unused in people’s garages, basements and attics. While it was once in active use, it is no longer needed and the people who have it don’t know what to do with it.
Volunteers repair, clean and sanitize this equipment and get it back into condition to use again. When they gift it to those in need, something special happens. Falls and the cascade of fall-related injuries and costs are dramatically reduced (by over 85%) because people have the right equipment to support them when they need to move about.
A group of concerned healthcare professionals and members of the general Charlotte community has now come together and committed to fix this problem for their citizens. To do this, they are using the successful, tested Virginia model. They have formed a 501(c)(3) named Assist M.E. www.assistmenc.com
The leader of the Charlotte group has recruited a core team of volunteers and began the process in Charlotte. The Charlotte effort is collaboration in the strongest sense. Equipment for recycling and gifting is being donated by members of the general Charlotte community and from church equipment closet collections. The major healthcare systems in Charlotte, including the Carolinas, Novant, Caromont and Premier healthcare systems, are contributing volunteers, help and advice to the chapter.
The program is in its infancy but has already been recognized by the Charlotte philanthropic community with a $5,000 SEED20 award. Assist M.E. can serve as a model for helping seniors in need in any community reduce falls and regain mobility and independence. The program is growing rapidly, serving over 100 people in need annually, but needs support and creative contribution of collaborative ideas to expand and reach all of those in need in the Charlotte community and to become a model for helping seniors in need across the country and the world.