DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Statistically, Maine has the oldest population in the country. And we're growing older all the time. How will Maine care for our elders in the years ahead, and how will families afford it?
A doctor from Damariscotta thinks he has the answer. Its called Elder Power -- a program that relies on technology, staff support and a network of volunteers to help elderly people stay in their homes.
Dr. Chip Teel has been a physician in the area for decades, and says he has tried to help many patients cope with the concerns of aging, "Stubbornly trying to stay in their own homes, proudly wanting to be there, and finding it harder and harder to do it. And at the same point they're wagging a finger in my face and saying don't you ever put me in a nursing home Dr. Teel."
That experience led Teel to create Elder Power. It uses small computer cameras and motion sensors in clients' homes to monitor their activity. Staff members log onto the cameras frequently during the day to see if people are following their usual routine, because that indicates they are all right.
If the cameras spot a problem, or don't see the person, Elder Power will call or send someone to the home. Home health aides or nurses also make regularly, sometimes daily visits to homes to help with medications, meals or other needs. And a network of volunteers helps the clients to focus on life as well as their medicines.
The volunteers will call or visit clients in their homes, take them to appointments or activities and look for other ways to help people stay engaged. Elder Power is providing the service in about sixty client homes now, and Dr. Teel says it works. He says the typical cost is $400 to $500 per month. That compares to as much as $5,000 per month for assisted living facilities or nursing homes, says Teel.
Carol Richards,LPN, has worked with Teel to create the system. Richards says this system should be a model for communities all over the country. "I think it's the wave of the future," says Richards. " We have to do something different for elderly instead of putting them away in a warehouse." Teel says he also believes the framework for Elder Power can be replicated in many places around Maine and the country. He says something has to be done, because, using the current model of assisted living and nursing homes, Maine will not be able to afford to care for all its elderly in the years ahead.
Dr. Teel has recently written a book about the needs of America's elderly. There is more information about that, and about the Elder Power system, at these addresses
Contact Dr. Chip Teel: