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Aging In Place: 5 Tips For Rethinking Your Home As You Age

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As an older adult, you may want to remain in your own home and your family members may be thinking about how to make that possible.

Aging in place is possible, but only if you create a reasonable plan. Any plan should envision a worst-case scenario, as difficult as that may be. You may find that there are situations that make aging in place unsafe and or unaffordable.

We have suggestions for evaluating care costs and care needs for yourself or an aging parent. Both are important considerations in improving your quality of life while ensuring home safety.

1. Evaluate Your Care Needs

You may not have any pressing care needs now, but you may in the future.

Start by understanding your health insurance, what Medicare will pay for and what it won’t, the cost of in-home care, and the limitations of home health. The medical care you may require could be expensive at home, and you will want to evaluate your financial situation. 

Personal care is nonmedical and is typically limited in scope to duties such as activities of daily living and companionship.

Medicare does not cover personal care. You will be responsible for covering the cost of professional caregivers unless you have a long-term care policy.

Also, consider when you would be willing to leave your current home and move to senior living, retirement living, or assisted living.

If you are low income, review whether you qualify for Medicaid and if the services they can provide can help to keep you in your home. If you should need a care center either for the short term or longer, how will you pay for it?

Typical care needs include:

    • Help with bathing, dressing, transferring, and toileting
    • Assistance with medications
    • Cooking, cleaning, and shopping
    • Mobility problems
    • Skilled nursing needs like catheter changes and injections

 

2. Consider Home Modifications

Many older adults wait to make home modifications until they need them. The problem with this strategy is that you may not be able to get someone soon enough to do the installation.

Here are our recommendations for home modifications:

    • Contact a certified aging-in-place specialist. These professionals can evaluate your home and make recommendations.
    • Look at your bathroom and consider incorporating a walk-in tub or shower.
    • Place grab bars where recommended. Use a licensed contractor to install grab bars.
    • Evaluate your home for stair lift placement, proper light switch and door knobs placement, handrails, and ramps.
    • Consider various alert systems for security and safety, like fall detection pendants and home security, such as ADT and Vivint.

3. Find Support Services

Most older adults who want to age in place will need other support services to make that happen.

Here are some suggestions on potential resources for you and your family:

    • AARP is a wealth of information about and for family caregivers, health insurance, home safety, and more for you and your loved ones.
    • Area Agencies on Aging offer services such as meals on wheels, senior transportation, caregiver support programs, senior centers, and senior employment. They also administer some Medicaid waiver programs for older adults.
    • Other social services such as faith-based organizations, geriatric care managers, and other nonprofit providers can be a source of information and support.

Review home health and home care agencies in your community so you can be prepared if and when you need one.

 

4. Make Your Housing Wishes Known

It is crucial to discuss your living options with your family so they can support you as you age.

Consider writing down under what circumstances you would want to transition from home to senior living. Make sure you have all of your legal documents in place, such as health care and financial power of attorney.

5. Other Senior Living Options

Aging in place is most often thought of as being at home. But the concept of home is changing for older adults beyond an assisted living facility, a retirement community, and other senior care choices. Long-term care doesn’t have to mean a care center or a nursing home.

Some of the creative aging-in-place ideas: 

      • Build it Yourself
        Contact the National Association of Home Builders, which can refer you to a contractor to design an aging-in-place home. Newer homes have accessibility features built in, such as no lip entries and walk-in showers.
      • Home Sharing
        For older adults with too much space, renting out rooms is an option, or buying a house together to share. Take care to evaluate the accessibility of any home in case you have mobility issues later.
      • Renting an Apartment
        Many high rises in urban neighborhoods can be a good choice for seniors who want single-level living but access to culture, healthcare, and social engagement. You will still need to bring in home care should you require it.
      • Senior Housing on College Campuses
        Also called University Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs), these are typically Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that allow residents to participate in college courses and other aspects of college life. But be aware that buy-in costs can be high.
      • Cohousing
        Cohousing originated in Denmark but is catching on in the United States. The design can be several small homes on one piece of land or a condominium community. Owners make collective decisions and use a consensus model to implement those decisions. Owners share in meals, cooking, and community responsibilities.

Aging in place is what most older adults say they want. The reality of making that possible can be a shock when you aren’t prepared.

Follow our steps and be proactive rather than reactive to ensure that you are safe in your home-wherever that might be.

Amanda Lambert

A Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and Certified Master Guardian Emeritus. She is also the founder of Lambert Care Management, providing care management and consultation services to older and disabled adults. She has 20+ years of experience in geriatrics, with expertise in mental health, home health, and guardianship, as well as all aspects of care planning, including assessment, projected costs of care, client advocacy and education, caregiver coaching, and advance directives. She is also co-author with Leslie Eckford of Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age (2020), Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield 2018).

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