No one dreams of living in a nursing home someday. The ideal is to live out our lives in the comfort of our own homes. Luck is certainly a factor in realizing the goal of “aging in place” —health risks increase with each decade, and chronic disease, dementia and fragility may make it too dangerous to remain at home forever.
But planning ahead to age in place as long as possible can increase the odds of a life well-lived at home. There are many factors to consider. A realistic financial plan is a must, even if all the variables for future medical needs cannot be anticipated. So is a safe living arrangement that can accommodate an older adult’s increasing physical limitations.
Here are some of the factors to take into consideration when evaluating your loved one’s ability to age in place—or your own:
- How easy is it for your loved one to move around her home without risk of falls or other mishaps?
- What transportation resources are available if and when he has to stop driving?
- How much work is required to keep her home clean and functional? What support is available to help with household chores as tasks become more difficult?
- How well can he manage his health and personal care needs, including doctor’s visits, medications, fitness routines and good nutrition?
- Is she at risk of becoming socially isolated?
Get a Professional Assessment to Help You Plan
As you sort through these questions, it can help to get a professional assessment of your loved one’s strengths and limitations by a physical and/or occupational therapist. If you go this route and your loved one is on Medicare, remember to get a referral through his or her primary care physician so that the evaluation is covered.
Physical therapists can help to determine whether unresolved, chronic pain that limits your loved one’s mobility and strength can be eased with appropriate exercise and the right equipment. (No, it’s NOT a good idea for Mom to use Dad’s old cane when it’s the wrong size for her, just to save money.)
Occupational therapists, in turn, specialize in assessing safety of living spaces and can recommend accommodations that enable your loved one to remain independent when it comes to basic daily activities, such as bathing, eating and maintaining personal hygiene. They can also spot risky areas in the home, such as scatter rugs and rickety stairs, that should be fixed or modified in order to prevent falls.
Research Financing Options for Home Modifications
Many creative and functional adaptations can be made to homes; if such modifications are necessary, from installing a stair lift to reconfiguring a floor plan, be sure to hire contractors who specialize in this type of work. They will be up-to-date on the latest thinking and codes to ensure that your loved one’s home is safe. The Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program provides interest-free loans up to $50,000 to support the costs of such adaptations, with repayment not required until the home is sold or the property’s title or deed is transferred. Nationwide, a variety of programs are also available, ranging from veteran’s benefits to free labor.
While circumstances will certainly change as your loved one grows older, an Aging Life Care Manager™ can work with you and your loved one to assess her or his needs, whether aging in place is a realistic option, and how best to make that dream a reality for as long as possible.
President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care Manager™. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.
For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.
Image Credit: Damir Bosnjak