How To Help Aging Parents Stay In Their Home
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As they get older, you might wonder whether it’s even possible to help aging parents stay in their home – let alone wonder about the best way to do it.
Although it does require some planning and strategizing, there are plenty of ways you can help your parents stay put as they get older. Even if they have health or mobility issues, staying home is possible.
Here are some tips to follow so you can put the right supports in place for as seamless of a transition as possible.
Before we dive into the benefits of aging in place, it’s important to address the elephant in the room – the dangers and risks that are inherent in doing so.
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are paramount on the list of common concerns for aging in place. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest issues to prevent. Installing features in the home that make slips and falls less likely, such as stairlifts, grab handles, and ramps can help.
Do you have a plan in place for emergencies? This is one major worry that many people have when agreeing to the aging-in-place living arrangement – what will happen if there’s an emergency? Many older adults either choose not to drive or don’t have access to a car – so getting help can be challenging in an emergency.
This is one of the biggest concerns related to aging in place. If your parents are having trouble getting around, you’ll need to put supports in place. Your parents might have issues navigating the house or could just need help getting around town.
Mental Health/Physical Health Problems
While mental and physical health issues can make independent living challenging at any age, that’s especially true for older folks. From chronic conditions like diabetes to degenerative ones like Alzheimer’s, all of these can be challenging to manage at home.
It’s no secret that older people are more likely to fall victim to home invasions and burglaries. Much of this has to do with the fact that they tend to have more prescription medications and cash in the home. Security is a major concern when it comes to older people living at home, especially if they are living at home alone.
Many seniors struggle with feelings of loneliness. Living alone, even in the comfort of their own home, can exacerbate these feelings. They may feel a lack of companionship when living at home, particularly when compared to a group setting like an assisted living facility, retirement home, or nursing home.
Difficulty Doing Daily Tasks
Again, this is something that can be addressed when you’re coming up with a plan for how to help your aging parents stay in their home. Your parents might have difficulty doing certain activities of daily living, like cleaning or preparing meals.
Benefits of Aging in Place
Despite the challenges to overcome, there are lots of benefits to aging in place. Here are some of the most significant.
For one, it’s what most people want. Did you know that nearly 90% of adults over age 50 want to be able to remain at home and age in place?
Aging in place is just more comfortable. Why leave when you have all the comforts of home at – well, at home?
It is also less expensive. The average cost of a nursing home is now up to nearly $106,000 per year for a private room – and while having adult day health care services is cheaper, it’s still quite expensive.
Finally, aging in place has numerous benefits that aren’t quite as tangible. It can help strengthen current and new social networks. Many adults want to stay connected to their friends and communities that they’ve had their entire lives – if they were to move, they might lose touch.
Because of this, aging in place is linked to a slower rate of memory loss and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Depression rates are lower, too. Obviously, aging at home helps a person maintain his or her sense of independence and self-esteem, too.
How to Prepare
Despite the benefits of aging in place, certain modifications need to be made in order to prepare. These preparations are logistical, financial, and emotional in nature.
Many aging adults live in homes that haven’t been updated to address their concerns as they age. Evaluate your parents’ home for safety and address key issues as soon as you can – ideally before they become a problem.
You may want to check out this resource for information and tools that can help you support your parents in making home modifications. As you’re doing this, consider the following aspects of home safety:
- Slip and fall protection: Are all major amenities accessible on the main level of the home (and if not, can chair lifts or elevators be installed)? Are there grab bars? Are all fall hazards reduced? How is the lighting?
- Emergency planning: How far away are emergency services like ambulances and fire departments? How can your parents get in touch with them, particularly in an event where their mobility might be limited? How will you be notified of the emergency – and what will you do to respond?
- Security: What sorts of systems are in place to prevent, detect, and deal with fire, burglary, and other problems?
How will you keep in touch with your parents, especially if you live far away? Having phone and video call systems in place can help – but make sure your parents know how to use them and have back-ups in the event of an emergency.
You may want to equip your parents with easy-to-use computers or tablets like the GrandPad (with a touchscreen capability) or a more straightforward flip phone.
Lively Flip is one option to consider – this flip phone has all regular phone features and an urgent response button that can put your loved one in touch with a nurse or doctor in seconds.
Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure friends and neighbors are in the loop, too. Communicate with trusted members of your parents’ circle to make sure they have your contact information – and vice versa – in the event of an emergency (or just in case you want to touch base).
One of the biggest challenges of aging in place is dealing with personal finances. Although aging in place is far less expensive than the alternative, managing expenses can be a challenge. Help your parents come up with a system for managing payments so that they don’t have to worry about forgetting to pay a bill (or paying it late).
Check in with a geriatric care manager or social worker to help your parents with their financial documents – or consult a trusted long-term financial counselor. Teach your parents how to pay bills online (if that’s realistic for them) or have bills paid automatically from their checking accounts. Check with your bank to see what options are available.
It’s also important to help your parents find ways to avoid scams. Have a conversation about not giving out sensitive information (like Social Security numbers or credit card information) on the phone or via email.
Finally, make sure your parents have a plan in place so that you can discuss bills or other financial concerns in their place. You might not need to do this now, but if your parents become unable to do it in the future, it will become a necessity. Having a power of attorney and will created is something else that needs to be done before your parents commit to aging in place at home.
How will your parents deal with the day-to-day logistics of living at home? From grocery shopping to traveling and managing medications, there are all sorts of things that need to be addressed.
Grocery delivery services like Instacart can help with this chore, and fortunately, it’s available in many areas.
Traveling, whether it’s just to a doctor’s appointment across town or somewhere else, can be made easier with driver services like Uber, Lyft, or GoGoGrandparent.
Many of these services can be accessed from afar, so you can help your parents manage the logistics of day-to-day activities even if they have trouble handling them themselves.
There are even delivery services that can drop off your parents’ medications. Check with the local hospital or your parents’ pharmacy to see what’s available.
Don’t forget to check with local advocacy agencies to see what community resources are there to help, too.
To find help in your area, visit the Eldercare Locator via the Administration for Community Living or call 800-677-1116.
Have a conversation with your parents about what they will do in the event of an emergency:
- How will they get in touch with emergency services if they fall or injure themselves?
- What will they do if they can’t access medical care?
- What if there’s a natural disaster?
Write this plan down and make sure everyone has a copy.
Several aspects of your parents’ physical health need to be addressed as they age in place.
One is companionship. Your parents are likely to get bored staying at home. Check with the local senior center to find what sorts of activities are around. Volunteers can often provide rides or stop by once a week to visit. Call the local Area Agency on Aging for more information.
This agency can also provide you with more information on how to find caregiving services, if necessary. Not all aging adults will need at-home personal care, but some may require a visit from a nurse or other medical professional to administer medications or check in once or twice a week.
Finding ways for your Mom and Dad to stay fit and healthy is essential, too, particularly when it comes to avoiding physical and mental health issues.
Will your parents be able to exercise, even if it’s just as simple as taking the dog out for a walk? How will they get to their doctors’ appointments?
Your parents can use all kinds of health apps to keep track of their health (and even some that will allow you to collaborate with them), even if they have medical conditions.
Some of the best include:
Many of these allow your parents to keep track of their vital statistics, like blood pressure or weight, along with things like managing their medications and other important health information.
How To Talk to Your Parents
It’s important that you start having conversations with your parents early on about what their plans are for aging in place. The earlier you start having these talks, the easier it will be – on both of you.
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When you have the conversation, make sure it’s two-sided. Listen carefully to what your parents have to say and take their concerns seriously.
Then, draw up a plan that addresses both sides and make sure all parties agree with the plan.
How Can We Care for Elderly Parents from a Long Distance?
It can be challenging to care for parents from afar.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tech resources to help you stay connected. Give them a call on FaceTime to check in or an app like Elder 411 to help you stay on top of what needs to be done.
Are there community resources you can tap into? Perhaps it’s something as simple as Meals on Wheels, which can deliver food to your parents or home care providers, like home aides or house cleaners.
Having family meetings with every family member is also important. Get the whole clan together to make sure everyone is on the same page. Who is going to have written permission to receive financial and medical information? What responsibilities does everyone have?
These meetings are essential, but especially for families with multiple adult children and in which only one child is the primary home caregiver.
When having your meetings, it’s also important to come up with an emergency plan that addresses your parent’s needs and concerns.
If your loved one has an accident or becomes sick, how will you get there on short notice? Put together a list of people who can help you out while you’re gone to take care of your parents, and make sure this list addresses both your at-home and work responsibilities.
Finally, know that you are not alone in caring for your parents who live far away.
About 15% of family caregivers in the United States are long-distance caregivers who live around 450 or more miles away.
Although aging in place isn’t always easy, it’s worth it.
The benefits of aging at home are there – so follow these tips to help your parents stay exactly where they want to be most.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – you don’t have to take this all on yourself, even if you’re the primary or sole caregiver.