Studies have shown that the vast majority of senior adults would prefer to age in place in their homes, surrounded by warm memories in a familiar and comfortable environment where they feel in control of their lives.
Given the physical and cognitive effects of aging, however, that option should be evaluated thoroughly. This is particularly true if the senior lives alone and contact with a family caregiver is sporadic at best.
What should they, as well as adult child caregivers, know about aging in place? What are the expectations, and what is needed to make aging in place work?
What to Expect When Aging in Place
First, expect that the future will be different than the present. Even if you or your senior loved one is enjoying good health now, eventually time catches up to all of us. If a diagnosis of some form of dementia has been received, future plans will need to adjust to a different level of care. (Shockingly, one study revealed 25 percent of seniors diagnosed with dementia in some communities live alone.)
Maybe you’ve factored in the need for some in-home care, but have you thought about the home itself? As mobility, balance, and strength begin to worsen, your home may need to be renovated with ramps, railings, walk-in showers and other costly items.
At some point, the senior, an adult child, or a professional caregiver will need to determine if living alone is still safe. Some indications that this is no longer the case include:
- The inability to take care of personal hygiene
- Poor nutrition, when meal preparation and grocery shopping become problems
- Taking medications incorrectly (or not at all)
- Inability to pay bills or handle finances
- Issues with eyesight, balance, and muscle weakness
- Increasing cognitive decline
- Unsafe conditions and hazards in the home
In-home senior health agencies like Bethesda’s Senior Support Solutions can offer care, supervision, and support, but, at some point, staying in the home may become unsafe and unworkable.
What You Need to Do to Age in Place Successfully
Even if you do not plan to sell the house soon, contacting a real estate broker to determine its worth and how quickly homes in your neighborhood are sold after being listed would be a good idea. By doing this, you are better prepared for an unexpected crisis that may require you to sell.
Examine the home for potential hazards. There are professionals you can consult that specialize in this type of renovation if needed.
Create a Support Network
If you or your senior lives alone, make a list of friends you can contact in case of an emergency, to run errands, or to drive to a doctor’s appointment. If possible, have several people in this support network so that you will have someone at hand you can call upon.
Become acquainted with senior communities and skilled nursing facilities in your area. Do not let a sudden health problem require you to make a rapid decision you and they are not prepared for.
If this sounds complicated, it is. Consider consulting with a care manager. Care managers are members of a comprehensive team of healthcare professionals who work with senior adults and their families to improve and maintain their health, wherever they may live. They can assist with navigating the health care system, answer insurance questions, coordinate accessing benefits, assess your home for safety, bring medical professionals into the home, see to the basic needs of the senior, and resolve conflicts that may arise with the family.
In short, care managers have the knowledge and experience to determine the best path forward for a senior who is alone and aging in place.
Contact us to learn more about the in-home senior care services that Bethesda offers in the greater St. Louis area which can help you or your senior loved one age in place successfully, including Care Management, Senior Support Solutions, and Home Health Care.