It’s common to hear retirees and older adults say, “I am not going anywhere. I’m staying in my own home!” Many seniors want to age in place and do not want to leave their home. According to a Pew Research Center report, 61 percent of adults 65 and older would stay in their home if they had someone to care for them, if they could no longer take care of themselves. Not having to leave the comforts of home provides older adults with a strong sense of independence.
By 2030 almost one in five US residents will be sixty-five or older, according to the US Census Bureau. Many seniors and their families will be faced with concerns over care and the desire to age in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
Aging in Place Requires Careful Planning
Preparing to age in place can be done efficiently, while enhancing senior safety and wellness, making timely long-term care decisions, and planning for future home health care needs. When planning for long-term care, and before making decisions that may impact their ability to live safely and independently, older adults should seek advice from an attorney specializing in elder law, who can advocate for them and provide valuable legal counsel on long-term care planning, end-of-life care decisions, living wills, advance directives, and other critical legal issues affecting seniors. To locate a current list of Florida attorneys accredited by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), visit www.nelf.org. Older adults can also take steps to inform loved ones about their long-term care wishes; informing family members in advance may help avoid confusion later.
Planning for Future Home Healthcare Services
Most seniors living at home will eventually need daily assistance with personal care. Although it may seem difficult to plan for this period in life, it never hurts to consider the type of care older adults would like to receive. Licensed and trained caregivers can assist with bathing, toileting, grooming, dressing, and feeding. They can also help with fall risk prevention and patient mobility. Being aware that home health care services will be needed down the road, planning for these services will make future caregiving less confusing for loved ones.
In some cases, an older adult may only need companion care services. Providing companion care can help mitigate the feelings of loneliness that many seniors experience, especially those who live alone or have recently lost a spouse.
Family caregivers—often an elderly spouse or an adult son or daughter—end up having to take care of their ailing loved one with little outside support, negatively impacting their own emotional and physical health. Providing home health care services will help reduce the burden on family caregivers. Trained caregivers can step in and provide relief to an older spouse or family caregiver who may need a break from caregiving.
Making Home Modifications to Reduce Risk of Injury
Older adults and retirees are taking steps to ensure that their homes can accommodate age-related health conditions that could increase their risk of injury. One in four Americans sixty-five and older sustains a fall each year. Older Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the adverse impact that a fall can have on their quality of life. According to a report published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), five home remodeling projects that have seen significant increases since 2013 are the addition of lighting/task lighting, curbless showers, grab bars, and nonslip floors, as well as the widening of doorways. Making home modifications to accommodate health changes helps reduce the risk of injuries for older adults. Other helpful changes to the home that may reduce injuries and falls are:
- Removing slippery runners and frayed rugs
- Replacing broken floor tiles
- Removing clutter from entry and exit areas
- Tightening or repairing loose handrails
- Clearing debris from yards and walkways
- Adding nonslip floor pads in the bathroom
- Lowering cabinets in both the bathroom and kitchen for easier access
Keeping up with Home Maintenance and Upgrading Safety Features
When planning to age in place, it’s essential to keep up with home maintenance schedules and checklists. Older adults and their loved ones should:
- Schedule periodic inspections of air-conditioning and heating units. Maintaining healthy air quality in the home is vital for an older adult with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory ailments. A malfunctioning air-conditioning unit, leading to hot temperatures in the house, can negatively affect older adults during the hot and humid summer months. For yearly air-conditioning maintenance and inspections, contact a reputable company accredited by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
- Check fire and smoke alarms periodically, and upgrade these to meet the changing health needs of adults with vision loss, diminished hearing, or cognitive impairment. Check with the local fire department for input on fire safety equipment. Informative articles and information about fire safety are also available on the National Fire Protection Association’s website.
- Make sure pool areas are fenced in and maintained. If necessary, have a licensed technician install a pool alarm. Pool safety is particularly important when caring for an adult with vision loss or dementia.
Aging in place requires careful planning. Making home modifications to reduce the risk of injury, keeping up with home maintenance, upgrading safety features, and providing home health care services all help enhance the quality of life of older adults living at home.
Should you need assistance in caring for a loved one in the near future and would like to inquire about home health care services, call Senior Helpers Orlando at (407) 628-4357 or (407) 818-1315.
Ana P. DeLane
Senior Helpers Orlando Team Member
“Most older adults want to age in place,” Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends, Feb. 16, 2016, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/02/18/smaller-share-of-women-ages-65-and-older-are-living-alone/st_2016-02-18_older-adult_0-02/.
“The Next Four Decades: The Older Population in the United States, 2010 to 2050, Population Estimates and Projections,” United States Census Bureau, May 2010, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2010/demo/p25-1138.pdf.
“Healthy Places Terminology,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/terminology.htm.
National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), https://www.nelf.org/.
“Aging-in-Place Remodeling, Minor Modifications Gaining Popularity, According to NAHB Survey,” National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), May 1, 2017, https://www.nahb.org/en/news-and-publications/press-releases/2017/05/aging-in-place-remodeling-minor-modifications-gaining-popularity-according-to-nahb-survey.aspx.
“Nationally Recognized HVAC Contractors In Your Area,” Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), http://www.acca.org/locator
“Older Adults,” National Fire Protection Association, https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/People-at-risk/Older-adults.