If you or a loved one are planning to age-in-place, which means you wish to stay in your own home as you age, the following are vital steps to take.
Identify needs–and predict future ones
This is the most crucial step. It requires that everyone involved take an honest look at what they need and what they can offer. No two folks planning to age-in-place will be the same, nor will they have the same needs. Even (and perhaps especially) if you are sharing space with others, spending some time identifying the specific support you need to be safe and healthy at home is critical.
Some of these needs might come from a doctor or other healthcare professional
For example: Should someone check medications or deliver injections? Should someone assist in mobility or rehabilitation from injuries or surgery? Those are the kinds of things best reserved for medical professionals with the training and knowledge to provide care safely. They may not be needed every day, but pressing medical issues should include medical professionals whenever possible. (Other things, like a family medical history, might help predict future problems. Consult a doctor if you have specific concerns!)
Some of these needs might be day-to-day activities
Often, these are things that don’t necessarily require a medical professional, such as cooking, cleaning, or going grocery shopping. There are many services which provide this, either through local volunteers or companies. Many folks also find that family members or friends can perform some or all of these duties.
Some of these might be social or emotional needs.
Do you or your loved one require someone to spend time with, especially if other loved ones are far away or not able to stay in their home full-time? Rates of depression and loneliness drop in seniors with access to vibrant social lives. Do not underestimate the power of companionship! Plan for it.
Some of these could be physical or logistical obstacles.
Do you live in a home with multiple floors? As we age, folks typically find that stairs are a tripping and falling hazard. Many who are planning to age-in-place find that minimizing stairs and installing ramps or handrails help make their homes safer. Does your loved one have trouble standing up long enough to shower? Perhaps installing shower rails or even a more substantial, seated bath will make things more comfortable in the long run. Worsening hearing or vision may make it unwise for someone to go shopping during rush hour or handle sharp knives when cooking.
Speak up! In times of planning, it is best to address as many concerns as possible. It can be difficult and feel invasive, even, to ask about things like bathing or other private health concerns. However, it is better to blush and ask than it is to risk your health or the health of a loved one. Be sensitive, but clear and direct.
Identify who (or what) will provide support
Some folks need help bathing, cooking, taking medications, caring for pets, running errands, mowing the lawn–the possibilities are as varied as the folks who need support. As you plan and identify your needs (or your loved one’s needs) for aging-in-place, consider who and what will be appropriate support. Some folks need someone to drop in each day to cook a larger meal and tidy up; others need more hours in the day for care.
Asking for help from loved ones, especially family, friends, and local organizations, is a great place to start. Can the eldest child spend some part of their day checking in on Dad? Is there a local Agency on Aging that provides transportation to social events in the local community, which will get Aunt Marie out and socializing? Planning to age-in-place doesn’t only mean hiring professional caregivers, although that is always an option. Sometimes, merely asking for or offering time and effort goes a long way to keeping seniors safe and happy at home.
Plan for the plan to change
Ideally, the plan will not change drastically enough that you or your loved one will need to leave home. However, planning to age-in-place also means planning for things to change, especially given what you identify as key needs and supports. Try not to get so attached to a particular plan that you don’t lose sight of the most essential element of this equation: the health and happiness of you or your loved one. That leads us to our next and final step!
Revisit these steps
Build into this process a time to reconvene with everyone involved–doctors, family members, caregivers of all kinds, and of course the senior themselves. Sit down and check in regularly–every six months, every year, every two years, etc. Use this time to identify new needs and assess how previous needs have been met. How are things working? How is the stress and health level of everyone involved? What future problems could we foresee, such as health or financial concerns? Are there ways to better address current needs?
Click below to read more from SeniorsMatter about:
“Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices.” National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute, December 2011. https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/ppi/liv-com/aging-in-place-2011-full.pdf
“Aging in Place: Growing Old at Home.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-old-home.
Carlson, Bob. “Secrets To Successfully Aging In Place.” Forbes, July 28, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2018/07/29/secrets-to-successfully-aging-in-place/#3a9536bb152c
“Planning to Age in Place? Try These Tips.” Health & Wellness: Planning to Age in Place? Try These Tips | Get Old, www.getold.com/planning-to-age-in-place-try-these-tips.
“What Is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults.” AARP Public Policy Institute, 2014. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/liv_com/2014/what-is-livable-report-AARP-ppi-liv-com.pdf