Like any other type of long-term care, aging in place requires a significant amount of preparation and organizing. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done since you can’t always anticipate unexpected medical events or health conditions. But for your parents to enjoy the full benefits that aging in place brings, your family must carefully plan for their current and future needs.
What Is Aging In Place?
How many times has your mom or dad exclaimed something along the lines of “I’m getting old!” while getting up from a chair or picking up something? Older adults frequently make comments like these when making light of their age. But at some point, these remarks might cause you to start thinking about your parent’s future, particularly where they should live should their care needs increase.
Your mom and dad likely wish to spend their golden years in the family home rather than relocating to an assisted living or facility. The choice to age at home is referred to as aging in place.
This type of long-term care offers many benefits, such as:
- More personal independence
- Growing old in a familiar environment
- Lower costs compared to traditional assisted living homes
Of course, aging in place isn’t suitable for everyone.
Take, for example, Fern, a 70-year-old woman living in a city near friends and family. While her declining vision means she can no longer drive, living in a central location makes it easier for Fern to access public transportation, stores, emergency services, and senior services. Her proximity to these services and amenities allows her to enjoy more independence despite not having a vehicle.
On the other hand, aging in place would not suit Sam, an 80-year-old man living on his family farm. While in good health, Sam lives miles from a small rural town with far fewer options for health care, socialization, and overall supports than Fern. In addition, the distance means it could take longer for Sam to receive medical attention in an emergency.
Factors To Consider About Aging In Place
Older adults wishing to age in place have more resources than ever to do so comfortably and safely. These resources, including senior care products, advocacy groups, and services, make it easier for your parents to age in place safely while giving you peace of mind.
As mentioned above, careful planning is essential to your parent’s care and wellbeing. But while you can’t prepare for everything, you can at least consider what type of care your parents would need if a fall or illness occurs.
Start by making an appointment with your parent’s doctor to discuss any health conditions and find out how these issues could impact their ability to age in place. It would help if you also considered how your parent’s health would affect their mobility or ability to care for themselves.
This list from the National Institute On Aging offers a few places to find more info about aging in place:
Next, collaborate with your parents and anyone else involved in their care to answer questions like the ones below. Together, your family can go over all the factors aging in place involves and develop an air-tight plan that benefits your parents as much as possible.
Who will provide personal care if extra help is needed?
Personal care includes activities of daily living (ADLs) such as:
- Personal hygiene
You, another family member, or one of your parents’ close friends could assist with these activities. Again, it’s crucial to establish your parent’s preferences, but be clear about your limitations. For example, if your schedule or existing duties prevent you from helping during certain times of the day, you might consider hiring a certified home health aide (HHA) for a few hours during these times.
Will your parents be able to keep up with household tasks?
Mentally, your mom and dad may be as sharp as a tack. But physically, they may struggle to keep up with household chores. In-home caregivers like HHAs can also help your parent with light housework duties if this is the case. Or, if it’s within your parents’ budget, you could hire a weekly or bi-monthly service for home and lawn maintenance.
Additionally, if they can no longer drive, they may need help with grocery shopping, appointments, and other errands. While online ordering and home delivery certainly help, a caregiver can provide companionship while helping with these tasks.
What about your parents' dietary needs?
Perhaps your father lives alone and never quite got the hang of cooking. Or maybe your mother’s sweet tooth is getting a little too sweet.
These are all valid concerns to think about while preparing your parent for aging in place. Fortunately, they’re among the most straightforward to solve. So whether you’re concerned for your parents’ nutrition or how often they spend mealtimes by themself, your plan should include solutions to these problems, such as:
- Find a worship place or community center for seniors that provides meals if you don’t want your parent eating alone every day.
- Schedule different days of the week that family members can visit your parent or leverage food delivery programs if your parent is homebound.
- Consider meal prepping together, or hire a caregiver to help with daily meals if you worry they aren’t getting enough nutrition.
How well do your parents manage financial matters?
If your parents’ cognitive health is on the decline, but they’re not ready to give up aging in place, you might find yourself responsible for important financial, health, and legal matters. The occasional late payment is one thing, but if your parent routinely struggles to pay their bills on time, it could be a sign of something serious.
This situation can be extremely overwhelming, so you should identify places to find support, including:
- Another family member
- Local volunteer groups
- Financial planners
- Geriatric care managers
The Area Agency On Aging is an excellent place for reliable referrals. You could help your parents set up automatic payments, so they don’t miss another bill date. However, only do this if you know they will have enough funds in their account, or they may face costly overdraft fees.
In addition, you may consider reviewing your parents’ monthly bank statements and bills for fraudulent charges. It might feel invasive, but it’s better than letting this activity go unnoticed.
What health care needs will need met?
As your parents prepare for aging in place, you should anticipate becoming incapacitated and losing their ability to make decisions or care for themselves. Although this can be a difficult topic to discuss, make sure you discuss advance care directives, power of attorney, and similar end-of-life planning documents.
Additionally, research your parent’s insurance plan to see if it covers the cost of an HHA or even a CNA or RN if your parent has more specialized needs.
If your parent forgets to take their medication, you should find a solution as soon as possible to avoid adverse reactions. Luckily, many medication reminder products are on the market designed to help elders track their prescription schedules.
How well can your parents get around?
Whether driving across town or walking across the house, your parent’s ability to get from place to place may be one of your most significant worries.
The following suggestions can support freedom and independence by minimizing their risk of falling. So, if your parent…
- …Has difficulty walking, encourage them to use a walker, cane, or stairlift. Medicare may cover medical devices like mobility scooters.
- …Can no longer drive themselves safely, see if there are any volunteer groups, friends, or relatives that can provide transportation services.
- …Needs someone to accompany them at doctor’s appointments or errands, look for volunteer services, or ask others for help.
How will your parent's social needs be met?
Although aging in place has many advantages, it isn’t doesn’t solve everything. For example, your loved ones could still be at risk of isolation and loneliness if they aren’t meeting their social needs.
So when you talk to your parents about their future, make sure to discuss their social needs.
Does a health condition or mobility issue discourage your parent from going out more frequently? Arrange for different relatives and friends to visit or find volunteers.
Are you unsure of affordable places to take your parent? Then look for nearby senior centers or support groups as these are excellent places to find entertainment or even new friends.
Your community Area Agency On Aging can help connect your loved one to local resources to prevent isolation and loneliness.
What safety concerns will need to be addressed?
Your parent may not live in a safe neighborhood, or you might suspect abuse from another caregiver. Or you might be concerned about common scams. Your Area Agency On Aging can help you navigate these situations to get your parents help faster.
If falling or illness are your fears, consider purchasing a personal emergency response system (PERS) like LifeAlert. You typically have to pay a monthly fee for this service, but it can help your parent get the help they need faster.
You can hire a caregiver to stay overnight. But if you have concerns about their safety during the rest of the day, look for local adult day care centers. Many facilities even offer transportation services to and from your loved one’s home.
Is your parent's home set up for aging in place?
You might feel better about your parent’s living at home if you implement some home modifications for aging in place, such as:
- Grab bars by the toilet, bathtub, or bed
- Non-slip mats in the kitchen, bathroom, and other high-risk areas
- Improving natural and artificial light sources
Of course, home modifications for aging in place aren’t necessarily affordable. Contact your Area Agency On Aging, state housing department, or volunteer groups to find resources to cover these expenses.
Is aging in place within your parent's budget?
The cost of aging in place is a significant factor when planning your parent’s long-term care. However, it can be overwhelming to determine how much your parents’ needs will cost and how your family will pay for them.
Depending on your parent’s plan, Medicare may cover some of the in-home care expenses, home modifications, medical devices, and other things necessary for your loved one’s care.
Call your parent’s insurer or look online to determine what their plan covers. If one or both of your parents are veterans, contact the VA’s Health Care Benefits line at 877-222-8387 or your local medical facility to find what benefits you can receive.
You might be surprised how much Medicaid lowers some of the expenses of aging in place. You may even find that the deductible or premium costs come far below the cost of assisted living or retirement homes.
We believe that aging in place is the best way for older adults to preserve their independence and dignity, leading to a better quality of life.
You might have a lot of questions about aging in place and long-term care in general. That’s understandable, and we’re here to help. So call 1-888-541-1136 or contact us on our website, or message us on Facebook to ask. We’re happy to help! Then, check out the blog to find more resources about aging in place and family caregiving.
- Christian, R. (2021, June 14). Aging in Place: A Guide to Growing Older at Home. RetireGuide. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.retireguide.com/guides/aging-in-place/.
- Lambert, A. (2021, June 29). Caring For Aging Parents: Simple 14 Item Checklist. Cake Blog. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.joincake.com/blog/caring-for-aging-parents-checklist/.
- NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA. (n.d.). Aging in Place: Growing Older at Home. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-older-home.