If given the choice, an overwhelming number of people want to stay in their home as they age. Remaining in a place you are familiar with as you age speaks of independence, dignity, and comfort. These are characteristics that every person has a right to and there are ways to prepare either yourself or a loved one to age in place. The key is being prepared, having a plan, and communicating with the family and friends around you.
1. Consider the cost. Most aging adults are retired and on a fixed income. This can be a challenge with rising health care costs, home maintenance, and rising grocery prices. Consider that as a person ages, their physical capabilities often diminish. This can happen very slowly or all of a sudden (as with an injury or sickness), so it’s wise to be prepared beforehand. Can you afford a landscaper? Can you hire someone to help you clean or cook? Discuss your future needs with your family members and be open to accepting help, things like paying a grandchild to mow your lawn. Think about hiring a home care companion to help around the house. Remember that the goal is to keep the aging adult in their home as long as possible, so outside help will become necessary at some point.
2. Prepare the home. If the aging adult needs a walker or wheelchair, you’ll need to install ramps and move furniture around to make clear paths. Make sure all fire and carbon monoxide alarms are current and working. rearrange food items in the pantry and fridge so they are easy to see and access. If your loved one has cognitive decline, make sure the water heater temperature is at a safe level, the stove has an automatic shut off device, and there is an alarm system on the house that alerts when someone leaves.
3. Transportation. Often the aging adult is no longer able to drive, so great thought should be put in to how that will affect their life and the lives of any family members. This is where it can be very helpful to have a companion caregiver, not necessarily for medical needs but for the practical. Most aging adults feel that when they lose their freedom to drive, they lose their independence as well, so this situation can be very difficult to talk about. In some areas there is affordable city wide transportation available for seniors, and it can be a wonderful tool to use. If you are unsure if it’s time for a loved one to stop driving take a look at this helpful article.
When it comes down to it, we should do everything we can to help our loved ones age comfortably and in the place they chose. This is much more realistic when proactive and preventative steps are taken, rather than reactive or defensive steps after something tragic has already taken place. These decisions can be overwhelming and difficult, and you don’t have to do it alone. We would love to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. Let us help care for who you care for.
As always, consult your doctor with any questions you have regarding your health or the health of a loved one.