A neuromuscular disorder had diminished Paul Dunham’s robust 160-pound frame to a skeletal 83 pounds over the past two decades. Since he was diagnosed with the condition, little pieces of independence — things many of us take for granted — had slipped away.
But Dunham and his wife, Nancy, still managed to hold on to something deeply important to them — and to millions of other older Americans. The Hayden couple were able to remain in their own home despite myriad health problems.
Recently, as his condition worsened, Paul Dunham’s family finally moved him to his daughter’s home, where he received constant care until he died last week. But the Dunhams were able to remain independent for so long in large part because of a national trend in long-term care that’s growing to match people’s stated desires to remain at home as long as possible.
An AARP study shows almost 90 percent of Americans age 50 or older claim that as a goal. Helping promote the cause is a growing body of evidence that offering care in people’s homes is more cost-effective than nursing-home care.
“I like just being independent,” Paul Dunham said earlier this fall. He said he and his wife talked once about going to a nursing home and dismissed the idea. “I said, ‘I think we’d be better just sticking it out together.’ And she agreed. The best we’ll do is do the best we can and just be determined to do what we have to do to survive. That’s what we did and it’s worked out OK.”
Nancy Dunham, 79, suffers from neuropathy in her left leg and is blind in one eye. “Everything I did do and was doing was, in a snap of your fingers, taken away from me,” Nancy Dunham said.