If given the choice, most people would prefer to age in place. They are comfortable in their home. They have memories in their home. They have relationships in the community. There are a number of reasons why, but is it always possible?
Barring health or cognitive limitations, it can be possible for your senior parents to age in place, provided they take some steps to make it a safe place and have a strong local network of support. Whether you are part of that network or are caregiving from a distance, you can help them create a safe place with a strong network of support.
Make the Home Safe:
As we age, we may develop balance issues, problems with our gait or medication could cause dizziness, which lead to falls. If your parent is hoping to age in place, you will need to work together to ensure their home is safe and you’ve implemented fall prevention strategies.
If you need help checking for fall risks, review my room-by-room guide. I also have information on medical issues that could cause falls and general home safety tips.
A great way to check their home for safety is to have them go through the motions with another set of eyes. Have your parent get in and out of their favorite chair. Is it too low? Are they struggling to get up? Maybe they need to invest in a new chair.
How safe is their bedroom and access to the bathroom? Are they easily able to turn lights on and off both from their bed and from the entrance to the room? Is there a clear path from the bed to the bathroom? Do they need assistance? I had a client who never uses a walker or cane during the day, but kept a walker next to her bed for middle of the night bathroom trips. She found that she wasn’t as steady on her feet when she woke up at 3 a.m. so the walker made her more steady.
By now, you should know all about grab bars in the shower/tub and near the toilet, so this is just a little reminder. You should also check bathroom rugs to ensure that they are non-slip.
Bring In Support:
Your parent may not need full-time in-home care, but could they use extra hands for some of the more difficult tasks?
Cleaning Service – I had many clients over 80 who still cleaned their entire house and did their laundry. It can be done, well. However, even splitting up tasks wore them out. Consider bringing in a cleaning service to help with the more challenging tasks like vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. You don’t want your parent to feel useless, but it will help them conserve energy to get help with the tougher tasks. They probably don’t need a weekly service, every 2 – 3 weeks should be sufficient.
Cooking/Meal Prep – If your parent still prefers cooking their own meals, perhaps you can get them help with the prep work. If you live nearby, can you or a teen child help prep and chop veggies at the beginning of the week? If you aren’t available, does your parent have a teen in the neighborhood who would like to earn a bit of money doing this? If your parents aren’t able or interested in cooking their meals, there are a number of meal delivery services they can try to either have completely cooked meals delivered, or pre-prepped foods that they just need to cook.
Household Tasks – I had a client who was visually impaired and had several other health issues. She lived alone, thanks to a little team of helpers she hired. She hired a service to grocery shop for her, she had a cleaning person and most importantly, she had what she called her handyman, but really, he was like her personal assistant. He was the college-age son of a friend who would come to her home two times a week to take care of household tasks. He took her trash cans to the curb and brought them back in, checked light bulbs and made minor repairs. He even decorated her home for the holidays! Whatever she needed done around the house, he would take care of it.
Don’t wait until your parent takes a fall or you realize they are only eating canned soup to make their house fit their needs. Whenever you visit, take a look around and ensure that they are living in a safe space that works with their current physical capabilities.