There’s No Place Like Home

Are you (or a loved one) age 65 or older and living at home? If yes, then you probably share the sentiment of Dorothy when she famously declared “There’s no place like home” in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. This is especially true as we age.

Anything you can do to continue performing as many of the “activities of daily living” (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring) in your own home will be money well-spent toward maintaining your independence.

Aging in Place

A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 90 percent of people over the age of 65 would prefer to remain right where they are – home. This desire is called “Aging in Place” which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

To age in place, you will need to plan for an aging “you” and make modifications to your present home today so you can remain there tomorrow. First, however, let’s consider the challenges.

Common Challenges

Aging is not for sissies. With each passing birthday each of us experiences diminished functioning on multiple levels, some more subtle than others. These levels include getting around, using our hands, thinking/remembering and our five senses (i.e., sight, sound, smell, taste and touch). When you add all of these functions together, it is only logical that the CDC identifies “falling” as the leading cause of injuries to seniors. In fact, one out of three seniors experience a fall each year. Consequently, anything that can be done to reduce the risk of falling is a big plus when it comes to remaining in your home.

Common Solutions

Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to make your home more senior-friendly. Starting with the basics, eliminate any throw rugs and any clutter on the floor. Be sure to tighten up buckled carpet or remove it completely. While you are at it, improve the lighting everywhere. You cannot step around what you cannot see.

For those in a wheelchair, or who use a walker or a cane, ramps will be needed to permit access. Other structural changes may be required.

Remember: you want to ensure access and safety at the same time. One of the most hazardous, yet important places to make accessible and safe is the bathroom. With potentially slick floors and sharp-edged countertops, bathroom falls can be fatal.

Consider installing bathroom grab bars, railings, a walk-in shower, a hand-held shower head, and maybe even a walk-in tub.

New Technology

Have you ever heard of “smart homes”? The future is now as homes are being developed to “interact” with the senior living there. From monitoring health status and cognitive functioning to whether there is enough of your favorite food in the refrigerator, the latest developments could permit you to live independently much longer … and provide your loved ones with greater peace of mind regarding your safety.

A Win-Win

With the high costs of assisted living, intermediate and skilled nursing care, helping seniors age in place benefits everyone. Nevertheless, both planning and action are the twin keys to making that happen.

Categories: Elder Law