As we get older, most of us have a dream of aging in place - i.e. staying in our familiar homes and environments to live out our days as long as possible. AARP estimates that 75% of adults over the age of 50 desire to age in place. For many, this wish is possible with the right support. In this article, we’re going to explore aging in place - what it means and how to tell if it’s an option for your elderly loved one.
What is Aging in Place?
“Aging in Place” is a term that means living in your familiar home or community as you age. Many different terms essentially refer to the same thing, so let’s clarify those first. Aging in place is the same concept as in-home care, in-home personal care, and home health care.
Why Would Someone Want to Age in Place?
There are many benefits to staying in a familiar home as your elderly loved one ages including:
Comfort. Being in a comfortable environment makes the transitions your loved one will experience as they age as comfortable as possible. It offers familiarity and stability that can’t be found elsewhere.
Independence. Aging at home keeps them in control of routines, meals, and activities.
Safe & Clean Environment. While elder care facilities are an excellent living option, they are not without risk. A virus, for example, can quickly spread amongst those most vulnerable while living in a communal facility.
Access. Friends and family will retain easy and familiar access to your loved one should they want or need to come visit.
Cost Savings. It’s often less expensive to stay in their home than it is to move into a care facility.
Who Can Age in Place?
While it can be possible for many seniors to age in place, without the right planning and support it can lead to dangerous situations. These situations have the potential to leave seniors lonely, unsafe, stranded, or housebound. It’s important to plan for and understand what’s needed to safely live in place to determine if it’s truly an option for your loved one.
The best candidates for aging in place are those who desire to stay at home and require little to no assistance in day-to-day life. That’s not to say that those who require more assistance can’t age in place, they will just need to plan and build in a support system.
What Do I Need to Age in Place?
The good news is that aging in place can be one of the most affordable options for eldercare. It’s estimated that a senior who ages in place saves up to $3,000 per month in comparison to aging in a facility. Despite that, it still comes with a price tag.
Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
Modifications to the home. Over time, is there anything in the home that will need to be changed for safety? Things like wheelchair or threshold ramps, non-slip flooring, moving bedrooms or other important rooms (like laundry, for example) from a higher floor to a lower floor, adding a railing, modifying showers, baths, and toilets for ease of use, and reducing outdoor hazards are all examples of things to consider. Note: Another, more realistic, scenario for many is the need to downsize and move into a smaller, more manageable, and safer space to maintain independence. Click here to learn more about making your loved one’s home safer.
Assistance needed. If your loved one is an “elder orphan” (i.e. living without a family nearby who is willing or able to offer support due to time or proximity, for example), it will be important to consider the cost and need for professional in-home care providers. You should also consider whether any chronic or progressive ailments are going to change that need down the line. There are additional needs to consider as well, such as transportation, errands (grocery store, doctor’s appointments, pharmacy pickup, etc.), meal preparation, landscaping, medicine administration, companionship, exercise, and more. These needs may be satisfied through a network of loved ones, assistive technologies, or a homemaker or home health aide.
Isolation. Natural and progressive isolation can take a devastating physical and mental toll on your loved one. For example, they may lose the ability to drive, start to lose friends and loved ones in their social network, their children may live too far away to be relied upon (such as in another state), etc. Aging in place can easily create a progressively isolating and potentially dangerous situation. If there’s a fear that your loved one may find themselves without support and alone, aging in place may not be the better choice. An eldercare facility, in contrast, offers support, health services, meals, interaction, camaraderie, planned outdoor time and activities, and more to keep them safe and engaged.
Closing Thoughts: Is Aging in Place an Option?
For many, aging in place is an option, but it is only advisable on a case-by-case basis. It needs to be carefully considered against other options in terms of both practicality and safety over time. With proper planning, however, it can be an affordable, safe, and comfortable option. Click here to learn more about community care options (how to find places in your community that will help with eldercare).
We invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here for further reading and resources. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.