You have likely heard the phrase “aging in place” before. According to the National Institute on Aging, the term refers to the practice of staying in one’s home as they grow old. If you have a loved one who has decided to age in place, it is important to learn more about what the process entails and how you can be involved.
While the process might sound relatively simple, aging in place requires proper guidance, preparation, resources, and support. With these safeguards in place, it can be a good option for many elderly individuals looking for the most comfortable way to spend their later years. Learning more about the potential needs or obstacles your loved one might face as they age at home can help you provide better support.
Evaluate Their Needs
You can help your loved one by evaluating the assistance they will need while they continue to live as independently as possible. This includes accounting for any future events in which they might become less independent and begin to need more help.
When discerning what needs might come with aging at home, consider the following questions:
- Does your loved one require daily assistance? (i.e. help cooking, cleaning, bathing, remembering to take medications, etc.)
- Does your loved one have limited mobility?
- Does your loved one live alone? With a spouse, family, or roommates?
- Does your loved one have any disabilities?
- Is your loved one prone to falls or other household accidents?
- Does your loved one have any conditions that will require more help over time?
- Can your loved one drive? If not, is there access to public transportation, alternate transportation services, or transportation from friends and family?
- Are you, or any other friends or family members, living close to your loved one?
These are just a few factors that might impact your loved one as they age in place. Asking these questions will help you meet your loved one’s daily needs, as well as prepare for any future events.
Additionally, speaking with their doctor is a good idea. Your loved one’s regular doctor can likely help develop a clear idea of what their physical needs will entail.
Tips for Planning
Having a plan for how to best support your loved one can help make your involvement easier. There are multiple ways to prepare and organize for someone who is aging in place. This ranges from preparing for worst-case scenarios, as well as working to improve their daily happiness and quality of life.
Some tips for planning include:
- Develop a plan for medical emergencies: decide beforehand how you will manage the issues that come with a medical emergency.
- Determine who will be providing your loved one’s regular assistance: This is not always limited to one person. Whether this is just you, other family caregivers, or a professional care expert, it is important to have a clear idea of who will be involved.
- Provide rides: If your loved one cannot drive, it is important to help them get around. Create a ride schedule, find good public transportation, or sign up your loved one for ride services like Lyft.
- Enlist the help of neighbors and friends: This is especially important if you do not live nearby. Ask trusted neighbors or locally based friends to check in on your loved one when you cannot.
- Find enjoyable activities: Many elderly people struggle with isolation and loneliness. This is often intensified for those living alone at home. Help your loved one find enjoyable activities. Senior centers socials, meet-ups, weekly classes, and hobbies can help seniors maintain happiness.
- Prepare for the future: Aging is inevitable. Unfortunately, this also means that your loved one will likely need increased assistance as time passes. Even if your loved one is rather independent now, prepare for what additional services they might need down the road.
- Continuously reassess: A Senior’s needs can change rapidly. Make sure to continuously reassess whether or not their situation is working.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Aging in place is a beneficial option for many elderly adults. However, it is not ideal for everyone. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of aging in place can help determine whether it is the right choice for your loved one.
The obvious benefits of aging in place include comfort and initial convenience. Your loved one will not have to move. Many seniors who move to a nursing home or senior living community struggle to acclimate to a new environment. Leaving the familiarity of home can be upsetting, and avoiding this experience can preserve peace of mind.
Aging in place can also help seniors maintain a sense of independence. Even for those who might need regular assistance, it might feel like less of a surrender to receive this help at home, as opposed to in a care facility.
Aging at home is often financially optimal as well. Nursing homes and other care facilities often charge high monthly fees. Even if you are paying for professional in-home care, aging at home can be affordable in comparison to alternatives.
Aging in place has its pitfalls as well, many of which become intensified over time. In many instances, the process is unsustainable. Your loved one might be able to live at home for a period of time, but quickly begin to need more and more care. When a senior’s needs increase rapidly, aging in place can suddenly become unfeasible.
Aging in place often requires a high level of involvement from others. This can be an obstacle for elderly adults with no support network. If you live far away from your loved one, or have a busy schedule, helping them continue to live at home might be difficult at times.
Additionally, aging in place can exacerbate struggles of loneliness and isolation. Many people become more isolated as they age, and living alone can intensify this.
Utilizing Professional Home Care Services
Seniors who age in place will almost always require support from others. Your support as a loved one is invaluable. However, you can also enlist the help of caregiving professionals.
Elderly individuals do not need to live in a nursing home to receive daily assistance from a caregiver. There are many in-home care companies that provide professional in-home care.
In-home care is an ideal option for those who want to live at home but need extra help. It can make it possible for seniors to age in place, even when they cannot do so on their own.
Professional caregivers can also alleviate some of the responsibilities of family members. In-home care options range from part-time to full-time caregiving, offering an array of options to best suit the situation.
With Proper Support and Planning, Aging in Place is Possible
Aging in place offers many elderly adults an ideal option as they grow old. It can offer a sense of comfort and maintained independence. However, the process is not feasible without adequate contingency planning and outside support.
Supporting your loved one as they age in place, can help them enjoy the comforts of their own home in their later years. Understanding the best responses to the aging process can help you do so.