An economic impact survey of elder Maine residents receiving regular visits by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Senior Companion Program has concluded that the program saved at least $4.6 million in 2011 by supporting elders choosing to remain in their own homes.
Senior Companions helps aging Maine residents remain independent and in their homes, particularly when they live in rural areas and don’t have relatives living nearby. The program has some 124 senior companion volunteers who serve more than 500 clients. In 2010, companions made 27,510 visits for a total of 83,712 hours in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties, according to Cooperative Extension.
The recent surveys returned by about 100 clients included people who were 90 years old or older and who live in their own homes alone. They were asked about heart disease, dementia or diabetes and if they have family living close by. Those reporting they live alone with at least one chronic illness, and thought they would be in a nursing home if not for their senior companion, said they would need MaineCare to pay for nursing home residency.
“We took into account other funding and made sure those amounts were deleted from the total, including the $14,340 which is currently received from the state,” says Ann Swain, program director. “We concluded, based on average nursing home costs, that the Senior Companion Program saves MaineCare $4.6 million per year.”
Swain notes that the Senior Companion Program could be saving the state much more if the current total client population were surveyed. “Imagine how much we could be saving in MaineCare dollars if we had the funds to visit clients across the state of Maine who are not currently being visited,” she says.
Assisting in the survey were John Rebar, Cooperative Extension director, Deb Eckart, an Extension educator in Machias, in addition to Swain in Orono.
Contact: Ann Swain, (207) 581-3326
Image Description: Senior companions; photo by Edwin Remsberg