Dr. Sara Arena and Dr. Chris Wilson, assistant professors of physical therapy at Oakland University, have created the Home-based Older Person Upstreaming Prevention Physical Therapy (HOP-UP-PT) program, which is designed to provide early preventative interventions to senior citizens at risk of being homebound by facilitating partnerships between community centers and local physical therapists.
“Physical therapists are experts in diagnosing and treating problems commonly experienced during aging, including falls, weakness, and community integration,” Arena said. “Preventative measures such as exercise, fall prevention and home modifications have been found to be effective for older adults, but preventative, home-based physical therapy for aging older adults is not a commonly utilized practice.”
The HOP-UP-PT program is focused on establishing new, proactive identification and early care provisions for the highest risk older adults.
“In our healthcare system, we have easily accessible prevention care for our teeth through routine checkups with our dentist,” Wilson said. “We generally aren’t able to access the skills and advice of a physical therapist until an injury or a problem occurs. HOP-UP-PT aims to provide the same prevention care for issues related to aging that we do for preventing cavities in our teeth.”
With that in mind, Arena and Wilson have partnered with community-based senior centers in Auburn Hills, Novi, St. Clair Shores, Saline, Pittsfield Township and Van Buren Township to offer the HOP-UP-PT program to adults 65 years and older.
“HOP-UP-PT provides a needed referral means for community centers to have physical therapists visit the older adults and provide them with a needed ‘tune up’ to proactively address the issues that may put an older adult at risk of not being able to stay safe and active in their home and community,” Wilson said.
Participants in the program will be randomly assigned to either receive six free visits from a licensed physical therapist immediately or to receive two free evaluation visits immediately and then start the program six months later. Licensed physical therapists will provide the individualized home safety, wellness, and exercise program recommendations and monitoring within the participant’s home. Participants will also receive a free automated blood pressure cuff and activity monitor from Fitbit.
“This program can really impact healthcare value,” Arena said. “Specifically, it has potential to improve the quality of life of the older adult participants at a significantly lower cost burden than that which has been reported for a fall-related injury.”
The program has been supported by the Oakland University School of Health Sciences Prevention Research Grant, the State of Michigan Health Innovation Grant, and was recently awarded an additional $201,588 via a Healthy Aging Grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and to reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors.
“This grant offers the HOP-UP-PT program an opportunity to expand into other Michigan communities in the future,” Wilson said.
Program enrollment is underway and will continue until 150 participants have been enrolled.
For more information, visit oakland.edu/shs/community/hop-up-pt or email firstname.lastname@example.org.