For Aging Adults: How to Plan to Remain at Home

daughter hugging elderly motherPlanning today increases options for the future. But, unfortunately most people don’t begin planning until they’re faced with a health crisis or serious financial challenges. To avoid this situation, carve out time for a proactive conversation with your loved ones before a crisis happens. Help create a plan by documenting care and living preferences for a variety of circumstances. It’s never too early to have this conversation and begin planning. Getting those critical pieces in place ahead of time will make it more likely, feasible to remain in your home, your community or setting of your choice…on your terms.

People often say that no matter what – they want to remain at home as they grow older. In fact AARP reports that over 90% of older people plan to do so. While this might not be possible in all circumstances – in many cases, with some advanced planning, it can be achieved!

This means not only communicating with support teams about the goal of staying in your home, but also getting connected to local supports and organizations before you need them and making a financial plan you and your loved ones can follow. Keep in mind, even the best-laid plans don’t always work out, or there may be a point at which it is no longer safe to live at home. Having a Plan B, or back up plan, for alternate care will also allow your teams to honor your plan and continue toward a common goal.

Needs Assessment Tool

A “Needs Assessment” is another important planning tool that goes hand-in-hand with other aspects of personal, financial, emotional and care-related future planning. A needs assessment is a professional term for sitting down and listing out the ordinary tasks, responsibilities and preferences that go into living independently, as well as determining associated costs. Sometimes this starts with as little as a home evaluation by an occupational therapist to recommend home modifications, but often requires a plan for incremental increases in care.

Examples include buying the groceries, making sure the lawn gets mowed in the summer and the sidewalk gets cleared in the winter, doing laundry, and getting to doctor’s appointments. Having these in place helps people feel supported and remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

Connect America logoLearn more about the family alert system to ensure your loves one’s safety too.

Download: Needs Assessment for Living at Home

When you plan for future needs, it is critical you, as the caregiver and champion, think in realistic terms about what you and your teams can and cannot do. When you do this, think about your worst day – when things are the hardest and your commitments are many. Planning this way will set realistic boundaries and identify areas where you or your loved one do not feel comfortable accepting assistance, or do not have the ability to fill certain roles. This is when you will need to consider bringing in additional assistance and professionals.

Some families may opt to hire a professional in the aging field who can help you to determine what steps can be put into place to help you remain living independently, or to plan for the future.

These professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and may be social workers, gerontologists, or geriatric care managers, among others. Many of the best of these professionals come from word-of-mouth, so be sure to ask friends, doctors, and others about the best professionals in your community.

Aging Life Care Association

Aging at Home: The Setting

Give consideration to the layout of your loved one’s home. You’ll want to assess if it is suitable for aging-in-place or if you’ll need to make some modifications. Sometimes this starts with as little as a home evaluation by an occupational therapist to recommend home modifications, but often requires a plan for incremental increases in care, as well. For example, think ahead about a decline in mobility—perhaps from a fall or other health related event.

Consider the following questions:

  • What are our mobility and safety needs? Has anything changed?
  • What changes should we make to the physical layout of the home to support returning to and living at home? Are there steps up to the door from the front or garage? A second floor?
  • What if we need a wheelchair? Are door frames wide enough to allow the wheelchair passage?
  • Are kitchen and laundry on one floor? Or are there flights of stairs between?
  • What about grab bars and other accommodations for the bathrooms? Should we install them?
  • Will food need to be moved to lower shelves and counters?
  • Can the stove be reached for cooking?
  • Who will help with transferring to and from bed and bathroom?
  • How will we get the daily newspaper every morning? Ask one of our neighbors, perhaps?
  • Woman in wheelchair using kitchenGiving thought to potential future needs will help during times of health changes. It is also important to think about more general home safety topics, such as fire alarms, fall hazards, and more. Sons and daughters of older parents could also benefit from reviewing this quick home safety checklist the next time they visit.

    These resources will help you think about aging at home in the safest, and most accessible, way possible.

    The MetLife Aging in Place Workbook

    Consumer Product Safety Commission – Safety for Older Consumers: Home Safety Checklist

    Next step: Look at your community support options

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