With proper planning, many seniors may remain in their own home as long as possible.
By Carol Simpson
After Pauline Brooks fell at home for the second time in two months, she realized she should make a change. The question was, could she remain at home with some modifications, or should she move to some type of senior housing?
Discussions with her adult children and an occupational therapist helped Pauline conclude she could stay in her home of 56 years, as long as some changes were made.
“Aging in place” refers to living in the residence of your choice, as long as you are able, as you age. In a recent AARP survey, eight out of 10 people over 45 say they want to remain in their homes as long as possible.
Assessing Current Living Environment
According to Julie Grigsby Ross, occupational therapist at Fauquier Health, the risk of falling is only one factor that should be considered. Staying at home offers many opportunities for senior citizens: maintaining quality of life, sleeping better, participating in usual activities, continuing relationships with neighbors and pets, and utilizing nearby resources. But these plusses need to be weighed alongside the possible negatives.
Changes in vision, hearing, muscle strength, mental processing, mobility, and health status can make living independently a real challenge. What factors should be considered when assessing your or a loved one’s current living situation?
Tina Ross of Simple Comforts Home Medical Store in Warrenton reports there is an array of mobility equipment available: raised toilet seats, bath benches, grab bars, bed rails, reclining lift chairs, and stairlifts. These items are designed to keep you safe as you move around your home.
Hazardous items such as throw rugs and electrical cords need to be removed, as well as anything else that obstructs pathways. In fact, the accumulation of possessions in itself can be a problem. Barbara Stohlman, owner of Overwhelmed? How Can I Help?, LLC, has seen huge improvements when she helps individuals get rid of extra items and clutter.
Is public transportation available should driving no longer be possible? Can you still maintain your house and yard? What if you are no longer able to manage your medications? Will you accept assistance in order to stay in your home? Many older people are so fiercely independent that offers of help fall on deaf ears. There are many services available to seniors, including home-delivered meals, companions, maid service, emergency medical alert programs, and more.
For those with the resources to do so, remodeling is also an option. According to Dennis Reitz, vice president of remodeling at Golden Rule Builders in Catlett, questions to ask yourself include: what changes need to be made today to accommodate current needs? What are the anticipated future needs? How do costs for improving your home compare to the cost of alternatives? Wider doorways, taller toilets and counter tops, curbless showers, no-step entrances, non-slip floors, lever handles on faucets and doors, and increased lighting can all make a huge difference to homeowners who have physical challenges, use a wheelchair or walker, or suffer from arthritis.
In Pauline Brooks’ scenario, she reviewed her situation wisely with the help of her family and local professionals, and was able to continue to live in her home for many years. With the proper planning and consideration to future needs, many seniors may be able to fulfill their desire to remain in their own home as long as possible.