VERMONT - Healthy Homes of New England is a regional home remodeling company that has started a vital service in the region they are calling Happily Homebound. Although Healthy Homes is still dedicated to performing home renovations of all types this segment of their business has a mission to "help people, families and our society by offering services that sustain a maximum level of community based independence for as long as possible." They are putting their experience together and offering home safety evaluations, home modifications and accessibility upgrades for the disabled and elderly.

Coming from 25 combined years in health care and 15 years as homebuilders the owners Chris and Heather Boucher are more than ready to provide this needed service.

According to Christopher the need to include the home as an integrated part of an individuals health care plan is long over due. Vermonters aged 65 and over currently sit at 15.7 percent of the population and are slated to grow between 5-8 percent in the next seven years.

The current occupancy rate of the 3,160 nursing home beds is at 85 percent and more nursing home level Vermonters are staying at home due to a desire for independence and cost.

The total state wide cost for institutional living is approximately $260 million, half of which is paid by Medicaid and half is paid by private sources.

The average cost per month for assisted living or nursing home residency is between $3,000 - $7,000. Furthermore, if an individual does not qualify for state Medicaid most have to spend down their assets until they do qualify or stay at home to avoid the loss.

Although these financial numbers are impressive, staying at home comes with its fair share of risks and costs.

Christopher explains that in Vermont falls constitute 20,000 ER visits and 2,000 hospitalizations annually. Four out of five of these falls are at home and the 65 plus group are 10 times higher in prevalence than any other demographic.

The average cost per fall is between $9,000 and $18,000 making for a total cost to Vermont of between $180 and $360 million dollars and $54.9 billion nationally. Of these costs government agencies are responsible for 78 percent.

Cost aside many falls experienced by seniors come with the immediate and critical challenge of figuring out how to manage their home with new injuries. Immediate modifications need to be made or often long term placement is the only logical choice. More over many of these falls are preventable through simple education and basic home safety equipment. In this case an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

Even though Chris and Heather are performing these emergency modifications for people after injury they would much prefer to be offering preventative services. For more information call them at 221-4446 or visit them happilyhomebound.com and have an in home evaluation done to safe guard against unneeded injury. They also hold injury and fall prevention classes, which are offered in various locations around Southern Vermont.