If you are like the majority of people you want to stay independent and live on your own in your own home. And if you are over 50 there is a good chance you have dealt with challenges of an aging parent. Mom or Dad most likely wanted to remain in their own home also. It may have or may not have worked out. For various reasons, many older adults end up moving from their beloved family home and live out their days in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. If you are one of the many adult children who had to move an aging parent you know how difficult that was.
“My MIL refused to move! My husband and I were driving back and forth about every 10 days taking care of one crisis or another. It was 250 miles one way! We were exhausted. When she ended up in the hospital after a bad fall we decided the choice was ours. We moved her to Houston where we lived. She came kicking and screaming. Unfortunately, there was no other choice.” ~ Sandra
The move was traumatic for everyone involved. Furthermore, Penny, Sandra’s MIL was resistant to any change. She never really adjusted to her new surroundings. Over time due to mental decline she had to be moved several more times. Each time was hard for the whole family.
“I felt guilty putting mom in an assisted living home”, Bill confessed “I promised, I would never do that. But all of our bedrooms are upstairs. Furthermore, our house is old. Mom has a hard time getting into the bathroom with her walker. Our home is just not set up for aging folks!”
After an experience like this many adult children may be re-assessing their situation. What can we do to make sure this does not happen to us? Here are 5 steps that can help you to be able to remain in your own home.
1. Have A Home With An Accessible Living Design
Ideally, a one-story home would be best. If you are living in a multi-level home would you consider moving and maybe downsizing? For most people, it is about having your own personal space and not about the particular home you are in. However, if you have a lot of sentimental attachment to the home you live in now and do not want to ever move you may consider a remodel.
You need to contemplate what would happen if....
- You had a stroke and could no longer use one side of your body?
- You broke a hip or a leg
- You became very old and frail and needed a walker or wheelchair
- You lost your vision
Stay on the lower level
A downstairs bedroom is a must for anyone really wanting to remain in their own home. Even if you have to convert another room downstairs into a small bedroom this is important. When you come home from the hospital to re-coop from an accident or illness you do not want to have to navigate stairs. Also, as you age your balance may not be as good as it was when you were younger. The more you can do away with stairs the better off you will be.
Pay attention to your bathroom
You have probably heard before that this is where a lot of falls occur. A wet floor, throw rugs and getting up disoriented in the middle of the night are all contributing factors. Adding slip-resistant flooring in the bathroom and the shower will help prevent falls.
Make sure you have grab bars placed throughout the bathroom. Talk to an occupational therapist or another professional to determine where you should place the bars. If you need a few rugs be careful that where you place them will not impede a middle of the night bathroom trip. Buy rugs with a backing that will stick to the floor.
Add automatic lights that come on when you get up at night. Furthermore, make sure your bathroom is well lit.
Have a seat in your shower. Being able to sit down if you feel weak or faint could prevent a nasty fall. Make sure the shower door is 36 inches or more, wide and the shower doesn't have a curb. This way if a wheelchair is needed it will be much easier to navigate.
Your toilet should be 17 to 19 inches high.
Make sure the design of the toilet paper holder to allow someone with one hand to change the roll.
“As mom aged I noticed that she seemed to have a harder time in the kitchen. Dad was no longer around to reach those items that were out of her reach. Also, her arthritis made it difficult to reach into the lower cabinets to get her pots and pans. As such she was cooking less. This meant mom wasn’t eating as healthy as she once was."
The following suggestions will help you to have a more accessible kitchen so you can continue to eat healthily.
- Add roll-out trays and lazy susans built in.
- Pull down shelving
- Open shelving for easy access to frequently used items
- Microwave oven at counter height
- Side by side refrigerator/freezer
- Front loading washing machine
2.Check Your Ego At The Door
“I don’t want anyone to think I am old!” Mom complained “You are old! “I told her!” Get over it and use your walker!” Janet laughed as she told me this story about her 89-year-old mom not wanting to use her walker in the grocery store. “Seriously,” she said. “I hope I am not that vain when I get to be her age.”
Decide now that you will accept the changes your body will go through. Know that one day you may need assistance from a device or from a helper. The ones who accept help are usually the ones who are able to live in their own home much longer. If using a walker keeps you from falling, then use the walker. A fall can be devastating. It could cause you to lose your independence. Likewise, if hiring a home care worker to come to your home a few days a week to assist you keeps you home, why not hire them? Being independent does not mean you have to do everything yourself.
Over your lifetime you have had lots of people help you in many different ways. You may have hired an accountant or tax advisor. You may have used the services of an attorney. Chances are, you had a realtor help you at one time. When the time comes that you need a home care worker realize they are simply another helper.
3. Engage In Stress Resilient Practices
It is no surprise that stress plays a role in your health. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, approximately seven in ten Americans experience significant stress and the physical effects it may have on the body. Though you will never get rid of stress you can learn to become more resilient. This means that no matter what situation life throws at you, you will be able to bounce back. A few suggestions to develop your resilience:
- Practicing yoga,
- Taking regular walks in nature
- Try to surround yourself with positive and uplifting people.
- Look for the good in every situation.
- Eat a healthy diet to support your body and keep it strong
4. Start Making Exercise Part Of Your Daily Routine
If you really want to age in place you will head this advice. Regular exercise will keep you strong, resilient and will help improve your balance. All of these things can help to reduce the chance of a fall. And let’s face it when a senior has a fall it can be devastating. It can and often does rob people of their independence.
Consider joining a senior program like the Tomball Senior Circle. They have all types of group exercises designed for seniors. Not only will you get the physical exercise your body needs but you may make a few new friends.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. “
5. Get your financial house in order
Get together with a professional to get realistic predictions on how much money you will need in retirement. Though no one has a crystal ball a good financial planner can help you look at the big picture. Consider long-term care insurance. MyersYounger LTC experts Sue Myers and Allison Younger suggest not waiting too long to get a policy. If you wait until a crisis happens it will be too late. The cost of care in the home can be covered by a policy. This will make aging in place so much easier when the need arises.