The desire many seniors feel to age in place instead of going to a live-in care facility is natural and normal, especially if they have lived in the same home for decades. At an advanced age, most people do not want to have to move to a new place and deal with starting all over again. Not to mention, there are high costs associated with moving your parent into a facility for older people, like an assisted living center. Not only will you have to pay for them to live there, but the price can also go up if they require extra care from a nurse or aide. This extra expense can put a real strain on your family as it typically is not covered by insurance and can be less of an ideal situation than you may have hoped. Nursing homes and long-term care centers may not meet the standards your parent or loved one is used to living in, leaving them unhappy.
If you want to help your parent age in place comfortably in the home they currently live in, here are some ways to make that happen.
Consider the Home’s Layout
Set your loved one up for success by changing how the space they have is set up, making it more comfortable for someone to age in place. Homes with stairs can present a real challenge as a loved one ages, and mobility issues get worse. If a person develops issues with their knees, legs, or back, it can become too hard to keep going up and down the stairs multiple times a day to access a bathroom or lay down for a nap. If there is a bedroom on the main level or a space you can use to create one, along with a bathroom, it may be worth your while to move your senior citizen’s bedroom downstairs. This removes the need to go up and down so often, allowing the senior to live mostly on the main floor of the home. If the home is already on one level, look at other ways to make it safer and easier for your senior citizen to get around. If the current flooring is slippery, change it out for a non-skid floor. Add grab bars in the bathroom to help them steady themselves in the shower or help them get off the toilet. You can also move key items used on a daily basis down from high shelves and counters to make them easier for your senior to reach.
Explore Alternative Medicines
Even with proper medical care and treatments, it’s possible that your senior citizen still feels discomfort and pain from chronic conditions as they age. Diabetic eye care, dialysis, and other conditions can make daily life harder. The aches and pains that they feel can make them cranky and ultimately more reclusive as it becomes harder to do things. There are treatments taken from other cultures that can help your parent feel healthier and re-invigorated, including Chinese traditional medicine, Indian ayurvedic medicine, and other classic methods of healing. Some of them have existed for thousands of years and are well respected in other parts of the world. Acupuncture is one such treatment that top doctors and international hospitals recognize as effective. An acupuncturist uses specific needles that stimulate the body’s energy through key pressure points in the body. These needles are super thin, and most people report that they do not hurt when they are pressed under the surface of the skin. Practitioners of acupuncture memorize some two thousand points and the right combinations to stimulate them and take away the pain that appears in some parts of the body. Acupuncturist services can help with chronic body pain, headaches, muscle pain, and foot and leg problems. Some medical insurers will cover the cost of visiting a licensed acupuncturist, while other plans include a flex spending aspect that can be used to pay them.
Look Into In Home Services
Just because your senior wants to age in place doesn’t mean they should be deprived of the services they need to feel their best and keep their spirits up. Instead of moving your parent into a setting that is totally new to them so they can be well taken care of, you can bring the services they need into their current living space on a regular basis. There are many service providers who are licensed and trained to come into the home and provide services for seniors, such as home health care aides, physical therapy services, oxygen therapy technicians, diabetes nurses, and nutritional aides. This can be more affordable and convenient than trying to transport your parent to a hospital or therapy center for treatment, especially if you have to work, have no siblings or extended family to help out, or live in a place with a long winter. You can even organize services that are not medically necessary but just brighten your senior’s day, like having a manicurist stop by to trim their nails or a hairdresser to wash their hair for them. If you can’t afford a professional to come in, use at home spa products to get the same effect. Physical touch is very important to keep your senior feeling good and a part of society, keeping them from feeling isolated. Planning to help your senior get social simulation and physical touch as part of aging at home helps them stay happy and keep depression at bay.
Build In Ways to Feel Independent
Encouraging your senior to stay independent as best they can helps everyone in the situation, including you. The senior feels better about themselves by being self-sufficient and the load on the family is lightened. If walking has become difficult, consider helping your senior get a motorized scooter or a walker, so they can still make small trips around the neighborhood, like to the corner store for small items they might need between grocery trips. In home physical therapy services can help them stay limber and prevent muscle tears or falls. After doctor’s appointments, write down instructions for the things that they can do themselves on a daily basis, like exercises the doctor recommended or the schedule of pills they need to take. You can program an alarm to remind your senior when it is time to take their pills or use a special pill box that lays out medications per day. These simple things can help the senior stay feeling independent as they age in place and reduce the constant need for someone to come in and help. For example, if all family members have to work daytime hours, the senior can take care of themselves during that time period and then have the family check in after instead of paying for an aide that isn’t really needed to come in.
Develop a Schedule for Care
If you do have siblings, extended family, or hired help to contribute to your parent’s care, set up clear times and days for each person to cover. This routine will start to feel comfortable for your parent and give you a chance to tackle other errands and work on the days you do not have to do things for your parent. Family members who can’t contribute to health or personal care tasks can help in other ways like driving the person to appointments or cooking a meal to share with the senior. A grandchild in their late teens can be trusted with preparing simple meals and just keeping the senior company a few times a month. Even if you do not have family to help, consider getting a respite worker to come in occasionally to give you a break. Caregivers can easily end up getting burnt out and mentally drained unless they take breaks to care for themselves.
Get Expert Help and Advice
You are not the first person to become a caregiver for your parent, and there are resources that exist to help you deal with this transition to a new period in your parent’s life. Medicare advisors informed about the program in your state can tell you what you can expect the insurance program to cover and the medical expenses you’ll need to pay for out of pocket. Caregiver support programs run by elderly care services or community hospice centers can help you identify and deal with the feelings that come up when you take on the responsibility of caring for someone else. There are also numerous blogs, groups on social media, and YouTube channels that go into the complex nature of taking care of an aging parent, how hard caretaking can be, and how to deal with the emotions that arise during the process.
Use All Your Resources
Isolating yourself and your senior is likely to result in both of you feeling frustrated and alone. Don’t be afraid to see what resources are out there and use them to help your parent age in place as comfortably as possible. Your church or place of worship may have programs to help your senior citizen, like day programs where they can socialize with other seniors, or delivery meals a few times a week. Local community centers might have free exercise classes or a walking group that helps your senior stay in shape. There are many parents aging and adult children trying to find the right ways to let them age in place and connecting with others in the same situation can help you both through the difficult parts of the adjustment. What is available to you might vary based on state or financial situation, so be sure to speak with someone who knows the full information about what you are eligible for and how you can apply to these programs.
Include More Than Medical Needs in Your Plans
With medicine allowing the average person to live longer, financial planning is a key part of aging in place. It is possible that your parent can only afford to stay in their home for a limited time, and then will have to move in with you or another family member if they still do not want to go to a facility. Even if their mortgage is paid off, maintenance of the home can add up to more than retirement income allows them to pay. Money management is an issue that many senior citizens struggle with as they age. In addition to making a realistic plan for financial support as they age, you should be sure to inform your senior about possible identity theft scams that may target them online or via phone. Senior citizens who are isolated or underinformed are likely to fall prey to these scams, so telling them what to be aware of is the best way to protect them.
Incorporate Technology in Every Way Possible
The things made possible by technology, like apps and websites like Amazon, make taking care of your senior citizen who wants to age in place much simpler. From grocery pickup and delivery so your loved one can get the exact food they want without having to navigate the supermarket to using Seamless or Uber Eats to deliver fully cooked meals, technology makes it so your loved one never has to go without or wait for what they need. Many of the stores your senior already uses and likes, including pharmacies, offer free delivery or at least curbside pickup, so your senior doesn’t have to get out of the car in the winter months. You can teach your loved one how to use a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri to make phone calls or order things they need from Amazon. If you live a distance away and can only check in occasionally in person, Face time calls can help you feel secure about how your loved one is doing as they age in place. Not only do you get to see them onscreen, but you can also verify that the living environment is safe by assessing the background for hazards, clutter, or signs of disrepair.
Following these tips, you can set your loved one up for success and help them age in place gracefully in the home they love.