Watching a loved one get older is never easy. However, having to watch them age in a facility rather than the home they love simply makes a difficult situation harder. Unfortunately, for many people, the needs of their elderly loved ones are greater than the average home can support. For that reason, as many as 1.3 million Americans currently live in a nursing facility.
The good news is that there are ways to help loved ones age in place. It involves some personal dedication and possibly some home renovation, but the peace of mind that everyone gains is priceless. If you face this, here are some strategies to consider:
Assess the Situation Carefully
Aging is such a gradual process that many people don’t realize how far their loved ones have declined until it’s too late. Suddenly it becomes necessary to move them into assisted or long-term care housing because the home no longer meets the resident’s needs.
First, watch your elderly loved ones closely for signs of physical and cognitive decline. Then consider the health issues they have already developed. How will those issues progress further and what kinds of care will that decline require? Being able to take preventative steps is a huge asset.
Consider Your Options for Care
Many elderly people could stay in the home if only they had a regular source of support. If you are not able to provide support, there are a number of resources that can help your loved one cook, clean, and run errands.
Find out what options are available in your area that meet your needs and budget. Professional support is available from a number of sources. Often times a friend, neighbor, or network of family members can provide the same kind of help as well as a source of love and companionship.
Sometimes it may be best to look into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). They offer seniors regular support and a community they can rely on for care and companionship. The goal of most CCRCs is to provide more active, engaging lifestyles for the seniors who reside there. The come in many different styles and with differing amenities, but can be a welcome option for those who require slightly more care or assistance with daily living.
Address Issues in the Home
Homes are typically built for the able bodied. That means as people age, the features of their home that have never been problematic before are suddenly a sources of stress, strain, and struggle. When those issues become too great to bear, they have to look for other options.
Changes to the home can eliminate many of these safety concerns, but simply installing grab bars does not make a home safe. Ideally we’d like to have no-step entrances, single-floor living, wide halls and doorways for wheelchairs and an ADA-compliant bathroom, but that would likely require an extensive redesign and can be cost prohibitive. Another option, installing a home elevator, can empower those with mobility issues to reach any floor and limit the need for a floorplan redesign. A few tweaks to the kitchen or a meal delivery arrangement can solve issues with cooking. The cost of these changes can still be significant, but so is the cost of a nursing facility.
If your loved one can’t live in their current home, building a home in a 55+ community could be a viable option. While land can be expensive, many contractors are choosing to build vertically. Home elevators become especially relevant in those situations. The point, however, is that aging in place is a possibility—you may just have to change the place to a more suitable location, or utilize a more mindful design.
Be a Source of Support
Remember that as hard as it is for you to see your loved ones decline, it’s even harder on them. They are struggling with pain, and many experience mental health issues in conjunction with physical issues. On top of that, the disruption that comes from having to leave the home is a major load to bear at a time of life that should be about peace, familiarity, and stability.
Have some empathy for your loved ones, and do whatever you can to make the aging process easier. If this means making a sacrifice on your part, it’s well worth it. Pay close attention to their needs, keep in frequent contact, and make sure that love rather than grief is the presiding feeling.