Preparing to Age in Place is something seniors in their 60’s and 70’s really don’t want to think about. Active seniors know it’s coming but planning and acknowledging aging is something that’s as dreadful as taxes to most--unless you’re getting a refund! This series on preparing to Age in Place will look at a step by step approach along with options to help plan and consider your future.
Key Advantages of Aging in Place
There are a number of benefits to aging in place, providing care at home that could enlist the services of a home care provider when the family can’t provide support or when they need supplemental care. Such possible benefits include:
- Allowing the senior to remain in a familiar setting
- Ensuring that the senior is safe at home or when involved with outside activities
- Having a caregiver assist a senior who has Alzheimer’s/dementia with prompting to reinforce key messages and help them with tasks. For example, a caregiver may remind the senior how to dress, help avoid dangerous areas in the home and reduce their stress by providing companionship.
- Helping the family caregiver provide bathing, toileting, and hygiene for the senior
- Providing respite care for family members
- Be available to help with additional support for the family caregiver when the senior attends functions such as family events
- Assist with recreation and appropriate redirection for the individual, including keeping them involved in favorite hobbies
- Having a nurse to help the family or caregiver administer medications
- Educating family members and friends how to best work with a specific disease and improve the senior’s care and outlook.
- Progressive diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or COPD generally will change the type of care someone requires. That’s why so many families find it beneficial to provide care in a home-based setting so they can understand the needs prior to making the decision to move their loved one to a facility or keep them home to age in place.
Addressing the Barriers to Aging in Place
Look around your home and you might notice a number of obstacles that may present difficulties to work within your later years. Typically seniors that need to leave their homes for a facility have similar reasons for the move:
- Mobility problems including stairs and entryways
- Declining Health
- Cognitive Issues
- Home Maintenance
We can take a look at these issues and tackle the ones that are addressable by getting your home prepared in advance.
If the person in need of care is in the early stages of a disease, cost can be a major consideration as many diseases are progressive and you could be faced with a long journey if otherwise healthy. Over time, this can stretch financial resources to the breaking point. For that reason, home care can be a very viable option as a starting point in many situations. If financial resources are tended to wisely it may serve as a permanent place to age in place.
One of the key things to consider when looking at home care or an assisted living facility is safety. It may seem odd to mention assisted living along with safety concerns but some facilities that will take someone with a progressive disease into their building may not have the staffing or capability to handle more advanced stages of the disease. Many of the same issues, like stoves or open doors that allow wandering, can be just as dangerous at an assisted living facility as it can be living at home by themselves, if for instance dementia is a factor. Facilities themselves may not suit the patient from an emotional standpoint. Group homes are normally able to handle a specific type of issue and therefore generally are a better choice, if they are affordable.
Preparing for Care at Home
There are many things to consider prior to taking on care at home. The first thing to do is work with a doctor or medical professional that understands the specific disease(s) that are occurring. Often, a general practitioner does not have the experience necessary to provide the support you need to make good decisions and offer the medical care necessary. Medical systems generally will have practitioners that specialize in specific diseases. These people could be Geriatric Nurse Practitioners; Geriatric Medical Doctors; Neurologists or even MD’s that specialize in seniors. These medical professionals may be able to prescribe medications that reduce the symptoms of the disease after they determine what they are dealing with. They can also suggest resources that will help deal with home modifications when considering aging in place.
The next thing to consider is the safety aspect of caring for aging seniors home. The stage of a disease will often determine the viability of home care. It’s always a great question to ask the doctor to see if they feel things are still manageable at home. Many home care companies can also send out their RN or Care Coordination Specialist to help decide if they are good candidates for home care.
Some things to consider according to the National Institute on aging. Many older adults want to "age in place" - stay in their own homes as they get older - but may have concerns about safety, getting around, or other daily activities. A few changes could make your home easier and safer to live in and help you continue to live independently.
- Don't use area rugs and check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor.
- Replace handles on doors or faucets with ones that are comfortable for you to use.
- Install grab bars near toilets and in the tub or shower.
- Reduce fall hazards: place no-slip strips or non-skid mats on tile and wood floors or surfaces that may get wet.
- Place light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and remember to turn on night lights.
- Install a ramp with handrails to the front door.
- Purchase or rent a Personal Emergency Response System
- Contact a home care agency and have them help you come up with some basic plan of care and cost projections to use for planning.
You may want to seek input and advice from a healthcare professional to assist you in these considerations. As diseases progress, issues will need ongoing evaluation.
For additional information and resources on Aging in Place, check us out on the web!