Helping the seniors in your life make decisions regarding aging in place should be the goal of the entire family. If your aging loved ones are determined to remain independent there are steps that can be taken to make that happen.
Quality of life issues need to be addressed and should be front of mind in all decision-making. Quality of life includes how well the senior can take care of him- or herself, maintain the finances, take care of the home, prepare meals and other items necessary to remain independent. While they may need assistance in getting to and from doctor’s visits or the grocery store, helping them retain their independence could go a long way in enhancing their quality of life.
What happens as we age?
As we age, our bodies and minds undergo a transformation that can include:
- Decreased stability
- Decreases in muscle strength
- Reduced eyesight and/or difficulty in hearing
- Increased risk of falls because of balance or strength issues
- Decreased mobility
How can we help our aging loved ones?
These changes can happen gradually or could come about suddenly if your loved one suffers a trip or fall. Because aging is inevitable, family members should come together to see what can be done to help the seniors remain independent. There are many items that can be addressed in the home to “age-proof” it as well as other accommodations the family can implement, including:
- Equipping the home to make it more senior-friendly. This includes adding grab bars to the shower, making certain all carpets and rugs are securely placed, moving items in kitchen cupboards and throughout the home to lower shelves for easy access, making certain all dark hallways are well lit and installing motion activated lighting
- Providing transportation for them
- Helping with home maintenance and upkeep
- Hiring a home health care aid
- Signing them up for a Meals On Wheels program so that they have access to healthful meals throughout the week
- Making certain they have access to friends and family because isolation can lead to depression
- Providing them a home medical alert system. The medical alert will provide peace of mind for all family members and for the senior because if he or she suffers a trip or fall or other health emergency they have access to medical assistance at the push of a button.
Our aging population
According to the US Census Bureau, a majority of seniors, aged 65 and older, are either living with a spouse or living alone in their own homes and many of these individuals struggle to complete everyday tasks. As of 2000 there were 35 million Americans over the age of 65 and the Census Bureau estimates that by 2030 that number will more than double to close to 72 million.
What does this mean to your family and to your role as a potential caregiver?
Baby Boomers are increasingly being faced into a caregiver situation into what has been deemed, The Sandwich Generation; this is because many Boomers are still raising their own families and are being tasked with caring for aging parents.
Boomers will likely find themselves dealing with their own home and career issues while helping Mom and Dad by taking care of their finances, shopping and cooking meals and home maintenance and upkeep. In some cases, the adult children may not live close to their parents and the ability to care for them long distance is thwarted but also leads to caregiver guilt. In both cases – whether close to home or long distance – families need to have a support system in place to help with aging parents, especially if your parents are determined to age in place.
While it may not always be convenient for your parents if they’re physically and mentally capable of doing so, you need to honor that decision. They should be involved in decision making and the logistics of their desire to age in place.
Plan now for your living situation
Making the decision on where you will live “when you get old” is not a decision to be put off. Seniors want to live independently and with dignity; they do not want to be a burden on friends and family.
Seniors determined to age in place should look at their home and begin making it senior-friendly. Clean out the clutter, close off rooms that are not in use, consider hiring a cleaning service or a personal care aid to come in and help with meal prep. Make certain your children know your wishes and understand that you have a plan in place to make continued independent living possible. In addition to this planning, you will also want to make arrangements for what will happen when the time comes when you can no longer live independently, will you move in with a family member or into an assisted living or nursing home facility?
Care, discussion and planning goes a long way in making it possible for the seniors in your life to age in place and age with dignity.