Over the past decade the term aging in place has worked its way onto the list of standard health care terminology. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition, “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level,” sounds simple enough. However, as with many things, the devil is in the details. Here are some things to consider when it comes to preparing to age in place.
When should you start planning? People are more likely to experience success with “aging in place” when they plan for it in advance. The following tips will be easier to follow and implement if you or your loved one are physically, mentally and financially nimbler. Major life changes like moving or retrofitting a home are never easy, but they may be painful or nearly impossible when we pass some of the milestones of aging. Plan early if you can!
How will your current health conditions change? You can’t plan to age in place with the assumption that the “you of tomorrow” is going to have the same needs and wants as you do today. For example, those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, COPD or arthritis, should consider how they may change in the future. Talk with your doctor about what to expect as symptoms progress; write this information down and periodically consider how your daily activities could be affected if your symptoms progress. For example, how will you get the mail if you need to wear an oxygen mask? How will you get your medications if you can’t drive? How will you take out the trash if your knees are in severe pain?
What are the biggest concerns around aging in place? The experience of aging in place is different for everyone, but some common problems can be prepared for.
- Home Safety. As we age our mobility suffers and we become less stable; avoiding falls becomes a key consideration for home safety. Other things like better air filtration systems, softer flooring, the heights of beds and toilets, and many other issues that may not be noticeable today can become problematic later. Your doctor, senior center or Area Agency on Aging may provide lists of common home-related changes that seniors should consider. There are also services dedicated to “seniorizing” homes.
- Self-Sufficiency. Consider your current physical condition and potential change in ability when examining whether you will be able to perform necessary daily tasks, such as preparing meals, checking the mail, taking out the trash, showering and vacuuming, without assistance. Do you have a support system in place to help with these things if needed?
- Affordability. Staying home can often be one of the most expensive options for seniors. The structural changes needed to seniorize a home may be costly. In addition, if your safety and ability to live at home depends on hired help, you will be paying for one-on-one care.
- Loneliness and Isolation. Senior loneliness is an epidemic in this country that impacts the health and well-being of millions of older Americans, especially when mobility is diminished.
- Transportation. As we age, there often comes a time when our ability to drive safely is impacted. This fact should be accepted for the safety of ourselves and others. A stubborn insistence that one can drive forever is dangerous. Get comfortable using transportation services like Uber, Lyft, Go-Go-Grandparent or Dial-a-Ride.
Resources such as the Area Agency on Aging, senior centers, veterans’ services, geriatric case managers, elder care attorneys and home caregiver agencies are available to help with the many aspects of aging.
For more information about aging in place and available senior services, contact Home Helpers Home Care at 805.777.8111 or visit HomeHelpersHomeCare.com/ThousandOaks.