The truth remains: people want to age in place in their own homes. Survey results consistently show elders saying this is what they want to the tune of 90% or more. And, with the right support, you CAN age in place. However, many elders are not able to remain at home, for common reasons. Here are the top 10 things that prevent elders from aging in their own homes. And, we’re all about solutions, so we’ll share what you can do in terms of prevention and resources to age in place.
1. The physical environment of the house is not conducive for you to age in place.
What are some of the signs you won’t be able to age in place when looking at the home itself?
- Multiple stories/stairs
- Lack of clear pathways to navigate (inside and out)
- Poor lighting
- Slippery or uneven floor surfaces or throw rugs and other obstacles
- A large home or extensive landscaping/land or a pool…in other words, a home that requires a lot of maintenance
Fortunately, much of this is easy to modify to make the house a safe place as you get older. And, for large homes requiring a lot of maintenance, it may be a matter of getting help with upkeep if the elder still wishes to remain in this particular home. Others choose to downsize if the large home (or a home with a lot of land/in a rural area, for example) feels like too much.
Get a Room-by-Room Home Safety Checklist
2. The person starts experiencing falls.
This ties directly into the first reason in many cases. If the environment is not “aging in place friendly”, it is likely that the person will fall at some point. Falls commonly stem from clutter, slippery floors, tripping on rugs, and lighting or other issues when getting up to use the bathroom at night. However, they can easily be prevented by assessing such factors and modifying the environment. Many of the modifications are no to low cost and do not require remodeling. Our care managers know tons of resources and creative ideas!
Other reasons for falls may be related to medications, diet, health conditions, and balance problems. If a person falls, it is important to understand what caused the fall to address it. It could be a simple modification (and a good opportunity to evaluate the safety of the overall environment). Or, it might require a medical evaluation to see what’s happening.
Falls are the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. Falling is a strong predictor of nursing home placement. And, many studies have shown that preventative interventions delay or reduce the frequency of nursing home admissions.
So, with intervention, this does not have to become a crisis. However, many elders are afraid to admit they’ve fallen. They think it will cause others to feel they can’t manage at home. In reality, early intervention can help a person stay at home. If your loved one admits to a fall but brushes it off or you notice injuries, it may be time to have an honest conversation about how you want to help them stay safe at home.
3. The elder has difficulty cleaning and managing household chores as they age in place.
This may be one of the first signs that makes you realize Mom or Dad is having difficulty. The house doesn’t look quite as tidy as usual. Or, in some cases, they’ll close off a number of rooms to avoid cleaning and upkeep. You may notice dust in corners or realize the carpet is dirty. Mom might have difficulty running the vacuum or getting into hard-to-reach spots. Perhaps you go to get something from the pantry and notice expired food or unused cleaning supplies.
This is one of the areas where prevention really comes in handy to age in place. And, the solution is one of the easier ones for most elders to accept. Getting some household help can make all the difference. Our caregivers provide light housekeeping services to many clients. With just a bit of support, they can age in place…in a clean, tidy, safe home. Some elders just need help with a few of the more difficult tasks. If things have gotten unmanageable, they may need a deep cleaning to get things back in order. Then, a few hours of help per week may be enough to keep things on track.
4. Household maintenance is overwhelming.
Beyond cleaning, it takes a lot to maintain a household. Maintenance ranges from small things like replacing light bulbs and air filters to bigger repairs, landscaping, cleaning out gutters, and more. This is why larger homes or homes with land or pools may be tougher for aging in place.
It’s also the reason older adults may be prone to certain kinds of scams. One of the more common scams in Florida is the roof repair scam, where someone puts down a large deposit or prepays for a roof that is never completed (or started). Household repair and maintenance scams are all too common.
As your parent gets older, you may need to assist and oversee upkeep. It doesn’t have to be a reason someone can’t age in place. However, it can be a motivating factor for some people in considering a retirement community, apartment, or condo.
5. It becomes challenging to prepare meals and eat healthy food.
Many of us realize that it takes a lot of time and effort to have healthy meals every day (or, even, most days). If you’ve ever cooked for your family, you know that it is not just the cooking process. You have to plan meals, get ingredients, time everything, cook, and clean. Additionally, mealtime can be lonely for elders living by themselves and they may lose interest. So you can see why we encounter many elders who are subsisting on snacks, frozen meals, or an occasional restaurant meal.
And, of course, nutrition is vital to wellness. If a person eats unhealthily over a period of time, it will affect their health. They may become weak, suffer more side effects from medications, or more easily become ill.
The kitchen can also be a danger zone for injuries. You can fall by slipping on wet surfaces or when using a chair to get to an item at the back of the pantry. Or, you may burn or cut yourself while cooking.
Fortunately, there are many diverse solutions for this problem! Learn about some of them in our Delicious Ways to Help Dad with Better Nutrition.
6. They mess up on their medications.
Nearly ¼ of elders admitted to nursing homes have problems managing their medications. Sadly, medication errors land many people in the hospital each year, with over 100,000 dying as a result. Most elders take multiple medications. It’s understandable that this can be hard to manage.
We can’t tell you how many times over the years we were approached by a family member who was worried about an elderly parent who had declined drastically. And, then the problem turned out to be medication errors. Fortunately, when we identified that as the issue and addressed it, the person often had many more happy years living at home.
Each person’s situation calls for the right solution. For some elders, it is as simple as organizing pills in a medication dispenser. Many times, we get the doctor to review the medications and they find overlapping prescriptions or ways to simplify the regimen. Some clients may need personal medication management or technological solutions.
7. The person needs to give up driving or chooses to stop driving.
In some areas, namely cities, this isn’t a problem. But, for clients in Tampa Bay and most suburban and rural areas (even many cities in the U.S.), a car feels pretty essential to living on their own. They may be isolated with limited public transportation options. So, if they stop driving, they may reduce their outside activities which keep them active and healthy. And, they may have difficulty getting to appointments and doing errands.
Fortunately, in most areas, there are more and more transportation options. For example, you can see some of what is available for senior transportation in St. Petersburg. Many of our clients who do not drive use a combination of transportation options, from Lyft Concierge to caregivers assisting with appointments and public transportation. Friends and family often help out too, but most elders also like to have the freedom of other options.
8. They need help with personal care.
This is another concern that people sometimes try to hide. It’s embarrassing for someone to admit they’re afraid to take a shower or having difficulty standing to shave. You might notice Mom’s hair doesn’t look clean, she’s wearing the same outfits, or even has an odor. But, perhaps you find it hard to bring this up. And, if it goes unaddressed, it may lead to various hygiene and health problems.
First, some modifications may make personal care easier. For example, the person may just need a shower chair or an arrangement to shave while seated. Grab bars and other minor updates can keep someone safer in the bathroom. But, sometimes equally important, they can help the person feel safer.
For many elders, they will need help with personal care at some point. Fortunately, dignified personal care can be provided right in the comfort of their own home.
9. The person has difficulty managing appointments or paying bills.
Whether due to cognitive issues or exhaustion/illness, some seniors lose track of their bills and appointments. They might start to get late notices or accidentally pay things twice. They become prone to scams.
If they miss doctors’ appointments, this can obviously create health problems. But, even just being overwhelmed and therefore not practicing preventative care can eventually make it hard to age in place. Seniors need to be getting their regular checkups and screenings. If they’re forgetting or just feel too tired to manage them (or to arrange transportation), things may get missed. Something that could be easily treated at home can turn into an ER visit.
Today, we have even more options for managing both finances and appointments from home. The surge of telehealth options is one small benefit of the COVID pandemic. Elders connect to more services and health oversight from home than ever. Additionally, with electronic bill paying and automated options, managing finances can be much simpler. And, family members can easily help even from afar.
10. The ability to age in place is undermined by memory problems or confusion.
Many of the issues listed above may have this as their root cause. Cognitive issues create problems with many aspects of living at home and taking care of one’s self. However, with the right support and set up, even a person with mid-stage Alzheimer’s can age in place at home. As a matter of fact, staying in a familiar environment can benefit the person with dementia.
However, the key to this is to evaluate the person’s needs and put supports in place. Simple cues and environmental changes can help. And, now’s the time to put services in place to keep the person safe and healthy. Often, this starts with help for some of the more complex tasks.
For example, you might take over Mom’s bills. Your sister may handle the home’s maintenance. Mom may give up driving and use different transportation options which you set up and show her how to use. You may set up her medications and get groceries delivered to her. As her disease progresses, she may need someone to cook all her meals for her. And, she will probably need help with cleaning and personal care at some point.
Along with initial assessments, our care managers help provide guidance for families throughout different stages of dementia. We evaluate and make recommendations so you can decide when it is feasible for the person to age in place at home or when they may need to move to a care community.
Want to be sure you or your loved one are set up to age in place?
Give us a call at 727-447-5845 to schedule an appointment with a care manager or discuss your concerns. Or, send us a message anytime.