As our loved-one’s age, it provokes an inevitable conversation: “How can we help mom and dad during this chapter of their lives?” This can be a complicated situation as an adult child because you want to do what is in the best interest of your aging parent, but also accommodate their wishes. Adult children often worry about their ability to drive, run errands, cook for themselves or even worry about their loved one feeling lonely or isolated living at home. However, according to the AARP, 87% of adults over the age of 65 wish to stay in their current home as they age. Recent events may even have you considering the idea that staying in their own home is the safest option.
The idea of aging in place can be stressful for caregivers, but fortunately, there are a multitude of resources that are available to us to make the process easy. With some preparation and planning, you can easily ensure that your aging parent is cared for, safe and happy. If you are implementing these strategies yourself or with family, these suggestions can help you support your loved ones in staying where they love most, right at home.
One of the most proactive things a caregiver can do is have this conversation with your aging parents early on, even before issues arise. Begin discussing their wishes and thoughts with them as soon as possible so that you and other family members are on the same page, and together, you can put a plan in place for the distant or near future. It is important to listen to their wishes and understand their concerns so that they feel heard and understood. It is beneficial for both the aging parents and the adult children to voice their feelings and come to a mutual agreement about a plan to address your parents’ safety and independence simultaneously.
Address Safety Concerns
Since older adults are at a higher risk for things such as falling, hearing loss, confusion, etc., you’ll want to consider basic safety needs for your parents when they are aging in place. Ensure that they have easy access to a phone- preferably a portable cell-phone they can carry on them or take with them when they travel outside of the home. Also, check that smoke detectors, appliances, carbon monoxide detectors and electrical cords are in working condition.
It may also be necessary to, depending on the design of the home, rearrange furniture and rooms in the house to make things more easily-accessible. For example, because stairs increase risk for falling, it may be beneficial to move the senior’s bedroom to a downstairs level if they live in a two-story home. Make sure that regularly used and necessary items such as medications, snacks, cleaning products and cooking supplies are at arms-reach to avoid risk of injury.
Understand Care Options
As a senior ages, they may find it increasingly difficult to complete tasks that they were once able to do with ease. Fortunately, there are several options to consider as far as resources for aging in place- such as hiring a professional care-service to come to the home on a regular basis and assist with tasks like bathing, laundry, companionship and even assisting with medication reminders.
Some seniors may only need help with one or two tasks, such as housekeeping or meal preparation. The cost of these services are usually more affordable than you think, and they provide a piece of mind for adult children as they know their homes are taken care of and an able-bodied professional is there to assist them. For example, Chefs for Seniors provides both nutritious meals and companionship at a cost that is surprisingly affordable.
If your parents decide they would like to age in place, it’s important to make sure that this model is financially possible for them and your family. Many seniors in their older age may need assistance with tasks like paying their bills (which is largely done online these days), navigating health insurance and keeping track of their finances and expenses. Luckily, financial counselors and geriatric care managers can be great resources to help them keep their finances in order and offer helpful suggestions. You may also consider learning about Social Security and Medicare benefits and discussing available options with those agencies.
Support Their Need for Companionship and Activity
Staying physically fit and mobile is one of the greatest strategies for being able to age in place. Seniors who do some form of exercise on a regular basis not only will feel stronger physically, but finds that it benefits their mental well-being also. Talk to your parent about what they like to do to stay active- there are lots of options available (for little-to-no cost) like online exercise classes.
Companionship is equally as important- not only does it strengthen your relationship but also provides another safety measure. Senior loneliness and isolation contribute to issues like cognitive decline and chronic illness, so be sure to make a plan for them to stay connected with friends and family. Regular visits, phone calls or Skype conversations are great ways to engage with the senior in your life.
In conclusion, aging in place is possible and often times preferred by older adults. If you make it a point to plan early and have these discussions with your elderly loved ones, you can avoid lots of unnecessary stress later on. Aging in place allows seniors to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own home, and can provide sense of autonomy and independence. And best of all- you and your family can enjoy years of making more memories together in the home they love.