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Ask the Expert | What medical conditions most commonly cause older adults to become homebound?

What medical conditions most commonly cause older adults to become homebound, and what kinds of medical services are available for homebound patients?

Various medical conditions can contribute to older adults becoming homebound, limiting their ability to engage in routine activities and social interactions.

Chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis (which weakens patients’ bones) and chronic pain can lead to mobility challenges and discomfort, making it difficult for older individuals to navigate outside their homes. Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or stroke may result in impaired balance and coordination, further restricting their mobility.

Additionally, conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disorders or diabetes can cause fatigue and reduced stamina, affecting older adults’ capacity to participate in daily life outside their homes. Cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease also may play a role, as individuals may face difficulties in remembering directions or maintaining a clear sense of their surroundings. These medical conditions can contribute to a decline in overall physical and cognitive function, prompting older adults to become predominantly homebound for safety and comfort.

The Virginia at Home, or VaH, program is designed to bring UVa Health care to the homebound patient’s doorstep, improving quality of care while reducing avoidable hospitalizations. For several years, the VaH team has made house calls, primarily to those living in homes throughout Charlottesville and its surrounding counties. The program is now expanding its services to select assisted living and memory care facilities in the Charlottesville area. Instead of office-based care, VaH focuses on person-centered, holistic care that revolves around the patient. VaH clinicians partner with patients, their loved ones and caregivers to augment their care at their home or facility.

Home-based medical care requires a skilled, interprofessional team. The VaH program brings together physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and social workers to provide comprehensive care. VaH’s goal is for patients to age in place with as much thriving and as few disruptions as possible. The team aims to keep patients out of the emergency room or hospital whenever possible by catching small problems before they become big ones.


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