Great tips to consider for successfully aging at home.
Moving is stressful for everyone, especially seniors. Many seniors wish to stay in their current home for as long as possible. But can they afford it? And are their homes a safe place to age? Whether you are that older adult or the child of an aging parent, there are a number of issues and concerns you need to consider before aging in place can be made a reality. Following is a list of many of the key issues to consider.
1. Make Your Home Safe and Accessible
Whether you’re planning to stay in your current home or considering downsizing to a residence with less maintenance requirements (e.g., a condo or smaller house), there is one overriding issue for you to stay safe in your home: preventing a fall. Studies have clearly shown that a fall is one of the major causes for a rapid decline in health and well-being among older adults, and is often the precipitating event for transitioning into a long-term care facility. The simple fact, however, is that most falls can be prevented. For instance, taking simple steps like removing throw rugs, clearing clutter from the floors, installing grab rails in the bathrooms, wearing non-slip shoes, and updating your lighting in and outside of your home will all help.
2. Create Your “Care Team“
Even if you are healthy, active, and completely independent, you will still want to create a “care team” to work with you to assess how you are managing at home and provide you with assistance when needed. A good care team serves as your ally, helping you in whatever way necessary to ensure your safety, comfort, and ongoing quality of life.
In addition to being trustworthy, your care team should ideally have a number of other qualities to be truly effective and act faithfully on your behalf. These qualities include strong communication and organizational skills, compassion, empathy, patience, a tolerance for stress, the ability to delegate, and the humility and good sense to be able to ask for help when needed.
3. Home Maintenance
Part of the trick of growing older gracefully (and staying healthy!) is to recognize when it’s time to stop doing certain things, and this is certainly true for many of the regular tasks associated with maintaining a home. Here are just a couple steps to consider:
• Hire a reputable cleaning company. Perhaps they only come in once a month to do a ‘top to bottom’ cleaning.
• Contract with a local landscape company or handyman to provide regular lawn care, including mowing, trimming, raking, and snow shoveling, as needed.
• Maintain an up-to-date list of qualified contractors and service people (e.g., electrician, plumber, etc.) who can address all of your major home repair and maintenance needs.
• In case of an emergency – say, a leaky roof or power outage – establish a key contact you can easily reach to help you resolve the problem quickly.
4. Area Services
In most locations, you can get help for just about any service or need you have, usually for a cost. To start, check with your local community and government services, including your local community care access centre. Whether it’s help with meals (look into the “Meals on Wheels” program), hiring a caregiver to cook at your home, driving and errands (consider public transportation, taxis, and paid services), or wishing to expand your social life – a solution can usually be found.
For older adults living at home there are certain activities that can be dangerous, or at least problematic, such as:
• Bathing. Make sure the tub/shower area is ‘senior friendly’ (e.g., handrails, non-slip mats), always test the water temperature before entering; avoid any sudden movements, never rush.
• Bill paying. Have a qualified member of your care team work with you to set up the most efficient system (e.g., automated bill paying online), so that everything is in one place and all bills are paid at the same time each month. It might make sense for this team member (or the primary caregiver) to review your bills with you periodically.
• Medications. Maintain a list of all current medications with all pertinent information; ration out pills in a daily dose organizer and keep in an obvious place (e.g., beside the coffee maker); throw out all expired prescriptions; keep all prescriptions in their original containers.
6. Technology Is Your Friend
With today’s technology you can now turn your house into a “smart home” with an array of tools and systems that will go a long way to ensure your safety, comfort, and independence. Depending on your particular needs and budget, the kinds of safety and monitoring systems that can now be installed in your home include emergency assistance, automated timers/reminders, GPS locators, video cameras, motion and lighting sensors, and environmental controls. Now, when there’s an emergency, help can be literally minutes away. Make use of these tools.
7. Budgeting for Care
Because there are so many variables in terms of the types of services and care available, it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all budget for personal home care costs. To develop a realistic idea of what it will cost you, you will need to create your own budget, listing all the items (services, alterations, technology, etc.) you think you will need. Break them up into two categories – “must have” and “like to have” – and then get price ranges from the appropriate individuals and companies. Under the price column remember to specify if it is a one-time or ongoing cost. Once you have a working budget, you should meet with your financial advisor (and perhaps your lawyer) to have a candid discussion about what you can realistically afford. Keep in mind that this kind of discussion is not a one-time thing. Going forward, plan on scheduling this meeting on a periodic basis or whenever significant life changes occur.