#TuesdayTips Should I Stay or Should I Go?



Should Seniors Stay or Should They Go? What Caregivers Need to Know

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Regular readers of this blog have come to know that one of my consistent messages is to think ahead and have a plan in effect for issues that may arise.  Once you have the plan, it’s easier to transform a potential crisis into a workable “problem” where you have already created a well thought out solution ready for implementation.  I cannot emphasize enough that one way to avoid the potentially overwhelmingly stressful situation of caring for our parents and other loved ones is to have a plan in effect long before the crisis occurs.

We tend to become very complacent as long as everyone is functioning on an even keel. Then, mom breaks a hip or dad isdiagnosed with Alzheimer’sand all hell breaks loose. A previous blog post focused oncoordinating a family meetingencouraging you to talk with loved ones about their future.  It is vital to have that talk sooner than later, while things are status quo, so plans can be established. This may not prevent the crisis, but it will make dealing with it that much easier.

I believe that the first and one of the most difficult topics to bring to the table is “Where do you want to live as you get older?”AARP, based on its research, notes that “more than 75% of seniors prefer to age in place; staying in their own homes, continuing to make independent choices and maintain control over their lives.”  How many people are we talking about?  According to the US Census Bureau, the 65 and over population is expected to increase to 55 million by the year 2020; an increase of nearly 60% over the year 2000 demographic.  Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1965, started turning 65 in 2011. Today this generation numbers 77 million, comprise 28% of the total population who own approximately 48% of all homes.  That is a demographic with power and money to spend.

We desire to remain in our homes where we raised our families and created so many wonderful memories. The National Aging in Place Council defines aging in place as “the ability to continue to live in one’s home safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. It includes living in a familiar environment and being able to participate in family and other community activities.”  One major stumbling block that often derails such plans is our declining physical and cognitive abilities.  As we age we must adapt to the challenges of performing the activities of daily living that we take for granted such as climbing stairs, bathing, meal preparation and managing the house.

To that end I have set in motion a new initiative called “At Home for Life.” This program entails accompanying a client on a walking tour of the significant portions of their home and grounds and completing a detailed residential assessment.  The assessment culminates in the creation of a personalized At Home for Life Plan outlining how their environment impacts their ability to function at home. It contains recommendations for minimizing risk factors that may lead to falls, and makes recommendations for adaptive equipment to increase independence and maximize safety and functional mobility. The plan will include suggestions forhome modificationsif they are needed and provide strategies for carrying out all of the recommendations.

As a caregivertake a proactive approach by evaluating your loved one’s environment. If the house isn’t easily accessible this could be your biggest roadblock to a successful outcome. Begin by considering these six areas:

  1. Entrance and Exits- Can they easily get in and out of the home? Are stairs an issue? Are thresholds visible and easily negotiated? Does the door open easily? Is there adequate lighting?
  2. Stairways- Are steps in good repair? Do the railings stretch the entire length of the staircase and is there lighting at the top and bottom?
  3. Main Living Areas- Are passageways clear of clutter, wires and cords? Is flooring safe? Can they easily get on and off furniture?
  4. Kitchen- Are counters, cabinets, appliances and outlets easily reached?  Is flooring safe and in good repair? Is there adequate work space?
  5. Bathroom- Is the doorway wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair? Is the shower or tub easily accessible?  Are there grab bars? Is the toilet high enough? Is flooring safe and if there are bath mats do they have a secure rubber bottom?
  6. Bedroom- Can they easily get on and off the bed? Are light switches within reach? Can they access clothes in their closet? Is there a phone next to the bed?

National Aging in Place Week is October 15 to 21. Please share ideas and questions!

This column is part of Everyday Health's special report, "From Boomers to Seniors: Aging and Health in America."

Last Updated:9/24/2013
Important:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health.
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Date: 19.12.2018, 11:48 / Views: 33142