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Are You Ready to Age in Place?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “aging in place” as a term used to describe living inside your own home as you grow older. Instead of moving to elder care housing or a nursing home, seniors choose to stay in their own homes – and the reasons vary.

Some choose aging in place because of the need for independent daily living and familiarity inside the home they love. For others, it’s a more economical choice. 

Sadly, ageing in place is not always an ideal solution. In some cases, independence and even feelings of familiarity can become challenging if cognitive and mental functions start to fail. 

With proper guidance from home caregivers and family members, seniors can enjoy a daily life filled with comfort and happiness as they age in place. This article will outline some considerations, including health care, budget, and any home modifications needed to assist those who choose aging in place.

The Ageing in Place Trend

Millions of U.S. seniors have chosen to live independently at home and in the communities they grew up in, regardless of their age group, abilities, or income. In almost every neighborhood, you might know of more than one senior citizen still living in their home. Although these seniors may rely on aging-in-place services like Meals on Wheels or home health care to assist with their independent lifestyle and personal care, they can still function and enjoy life.

Aging-in-place services are ideal for seniors who are healthy or have a strong support system from their families, friends, or local religious organization. It also helps if their homes are mortgage-free or require small monthly payments to maintain them adequately.

Homes that are mainly one floor are an important part of aging-in-place if accessibility is an issue. For example, bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms can be equipped with assistance modifications to ensure a safe environment that helps maintain an independent way of life.

Is Aging in Place Right for All Older Adults?

Some seniors choose to age in place, even though it can be challenging. Maintaining physical, emotional, and mental independence can become increasingly difficult as a person grows older. Although all situations are unique, it helps if the decision to include aging-in-place services is based on realistic circumstances. 

Can the seniors live on their own with their current home design? Will they experience bouts of loneliness and depression without companion care? With the following helpful tips, you and your aging loved one can decide if they can handle aging at home or require aging-in-place services, companion care, or home care assistance.

Location

Although some newer urban development and housing projects are designed specifically for seniors, you can even modify older homes for ease of use and safety. However, there are some circumstances where aging in place isn’t ideal. The following examples illustrate how location can decide if independent living is viable.

  • Easy accessibility and close to conveniences – A single-story ranch-style home that is close to shopping and other family members is ideal for aging in place.

  • A remote and hard-to-access home – A multi-level home with a remote and rural setting far from family and regular doctor visits is not ideal for aging in place.

By examining where a person is living, you can determine if enough community resources are available in their area. Would they be closely monitored for health care at their current home’s location, or would they benefit from moving to a new and better-suited location or community living facility?

Health Conditions

As a person ages, specific physical, mental, and emotional abilities might start to degrade. Cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia require a professional caregiver to provide round-the-clock home care services as the disease worsens. Safety concerns for loved ones prone to falls or injuries will require medical modifications to their home and regular home care visits from a professional caregiver.

Pros of Aging in Place

As home health care services become increasingly available, many aging seniors in the U.S. can take advantage of these services. However, there are some things to consider if you choose this route. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of aging-in-place assistance.

#1. Less Expensive

Assisted living facilities in the U.S. can be expensive, and Medicare and other health insurance programs like Medicare or Veterans Affairs don’t cover many of these long-term care facilities. This means many seniors may be out of pocket for these expenses. Staying at home usually means that the person is in a home that is already mortgage-free or has very few bills, making it a more affordable option.

#2. Independent Living

As a person ages, their independence may fade, and personal care and everyday tasks can become difficult. For example, even washing dishes can be challenging for some seniors. If family, friends, and caregivers can provide some assistance, it helps a person maintain a level of independence at home.

#3. Familiar Setting/Familiar Routine

Moving out of a familiar home can be challenging, especially if the house has been in the family for generations. While some seniors can handle the transition smoothly to a new environment, such as a nursing home or long-term care facility, it can be stressful and emotional for others. Considering the senior’s mood, emotional well-being, and mental state is crucial.

Cons of Aging in Place

Aging in place can be challenging. Simple tasks like personal care, washing clothes, or making beds are impossible for some older adults. A discussion with loved ones and caregivers will help determine if aging at home is a valid option based on personal mobility or mental ability issues.

#1. Health and Safety Concerns

As a person gets older, physical and mental abilities may not be as they once were, and emergencies might happen more frequently. Even reaching for a food item, forgetting where an item is, or walking up a few stairs can quickly become an emergency. 

Having a health care provider nearby is vital to prevent unwanted medical emergencies from happening. They can help ensure that the seniors take medications on schedule and that they don’t wander off. These professionals can even run errands and ensure that you don’t attempt any physical activities that might be harmful, like walking down icy outdoor steps.

#2. Challenges to Upkeep Your Home and Perform Everyday Tasks

When mobility and cognitive impairments worsen, it can make performing everyday tasks and routine maintenance to the home difficult. In some cases, older adults don’t have the necessary funds to pay for an outside company to help with regular home repairs or maintenance. 

#3. Lack of a Reliable Support System

Some aging seniors have a reliable group of friends, family members, and caregivers to help them age at home, but this is not the case for some. Loved ones and companions may live on the other side of the country or abroad. They may even have few friends or can’t afford health care providers. The lack of a companion care system can make daily tasks challenging at home.

Steps For Successful Aging in Place

The decision to age in place is more than just continuing to live in your home. Several things will need to change to assist the person as they age. Modifications to rooms in the house to set up aging in place services like food delivery, companion care, and more will be necessary.

Here are some things worth considering to make the process go smoothly. Looking at these things while the senior is still mentally and physically healthy is vital.

#1. Consider Your Budget

With many seniors, the option to age in place is based purely on economics. It can be costly to stay at a long-term healthcare facility like a nursing home. Staying at home means you can budget for necessary aging-in-place services like a visiting nurse, companion care, or food delivery.

In 2021, the median cost for an assisted living facility was approximately $54,000 annually. A private room in a nursing home costs over $108,000 per year. A typical senior citizen spending that much money when they own their home outright can seem impractical and unnecessary.

Even if the senior doesn’t have a mortgage, monthly, yearly and unexpected costs still occur. Here’s a short list of some of the items to consider when planning out a budget for aging at home:

  • Housing – Mortgage payments or rent and property taxes.

  • In-home care – Home healthcare aides, companion care, and visiting registered nurses.

  • Utilities – Electricity, water, telephone, gas, and internet.

  • Debt – Credit card or debt payments.

  • Medicare costs – Deductibles, premiums, or prescription drug costs.

  • Food – Meal preparation, grocery shopping, and grocery delivery costs.

  • Personal care – Bathing and dressing.

  • Public transportation – Taxis, buses, senior home pick up and drop off services.

  • Assistance for daily tasks – Home repairs, cleaning, or cooking.

By evaluating all available income sources, such as Social Security benefits, disability benefits, retirement income, and pensions, older adults can safely budget for these expenses.

One thing to consider is that the cost of these items will increase over time. Even if it seems affordable to stay in your home currently, over the next decade or so, the costs may exceed a fixed income. Speaking to a financial advisor is one of the best ways to plan for current and future expenses.

#2. Home Modifications

Modifications to the home may be necessary, especially if there are mobility issues. These modifications help a senior navigate the home safely and provide a level of independence.

The modifications can range from simple things like removing any tripping hazards like throw rugs or furniture, or they can be expensive remodeling to rooms in the home. Let’s look at ways to modify the home for a safer and easier aging-at-home experience:

  • Nonslip flooring – Install nonslip flooring in the main areas, like the bathrooms and entrances.

  • Widening doorways and hallways – Necessary for wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices.

  • A walk-in tub or shower – Ideal to prevent tripping hazards and ease of use.

  • Ramps – Adding ramps to entrances provides ease of use for mobility devices.

  • Grab bars and grips – Installing grab bars and grips, especially in the bathroom, creates a safer environment.

  • Ground-floor living – If the home is more than one story, creating a bedroom on the ground floor may be necessary to prevent dangerous falls on stairs. In addition to a ground-floor bedroom, you will require a bathroom on the same level.

  • Brighter lighting – For those with vision problems, installing brighter lighting fixtures or motion sensors allows for better navigation throughout the home.

While some of these modifications barely cost anything, others can cost thousands of dollars. The seniors may have to pay these costs themselves. To find reputable home modification experts, contact The National Association of Home Builders for aging-in-place specialists. These companies specialize in designing homes for seniors and suggest only necessary modifications.

#3. In-Home Care

Just about any senior who decides to stay at home will require some in-home care service. Home healthcare services are typically less expensive and more accessible than visiting your local doctor or hospital.

Before choosing the right type of home healthcare service, there are a few things to ask. Asking questions like “How many hours of care per day or week is needed?”, “Does Medicare cover these services?” are crucial. The more questions you ask, the easier it will be to make the right choice. Let’s look at a few of the options available:

  • Home Healthcare Aides – These professionals help seniors to get out of bed, walk, bathe, and dress.

  • Registered Nurse – A registered nurse provides skilled nursing care that may include dressing wounds, intravenous therapy, giving medication and certain injections, pain control, and general monitoring of your overall health.

  • Occupational, physical, and speech therapy – These professionals provide services to help increase your ability to perform daily tasks or improve your speech after a stroke or injury.

  • Medical social services – Socializing is essential as a person ages. This service helps find resources in your community for emotional support.

  • Homemaker services – A homemaker carries out various chores or tasks, such as meal preparation, grocery shopping, light cleaning, and laundry services.

  • Medical supplies – This includes wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters.

Ways to Reduce Costs of Aging in Place

While Medicare or other healthcare insurance companies cover some services and costs, some are not covered. Here are a few available organizations that may help cover some, if not all, of the costs of your decision to age in place.

Medicare and Medicare Advantage

If you qualify for Original Medicare, all home healthcare costs ordered by a doctor and provided by a certified home healthcare agency are covered. However, to qualify for Medicare home health services, you must be under a doctor’s care and be homebound.

Medicare Advantage may provide additional home care services administered by private health insurance companies that contract with the federal government. They cover adult daycare programs, nonmedical transportation, nutrition programs, and home modifications. They may also help cover out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance.

Long-Term Care Insurance and Annuities

Many people purchase insurance policies that cover expenses related to their life as they age. These plans can either be long-term healthcare insurance or a life insurance policy that contains a rider that covers long-term care.

Another option to help with any future costs is annuities or a contract issued by an insurance company that converts premiums into a fixed and guaranteed income stream. The downfall of annuities is that they can be complex and sometimes expensive, and they may require a significant initial investment.

Free Community Resources

For those on a fixed income, there are approximately 622 Area Agencies on Aging in the U.S. to help with your home aging. Each of these agencies helps coordinate a complex network of local service delivery systems that reaches millions of older Americans and their caregivers. Here is a list of some of the services available:

  • Meal deliveries like Meals on Wheels.

  • Visiting nurses and healthcare providers.

  • Transportation services.

  • Senior centers that offer programs like adult day care and outings.

  • Support for caregivers.

  • Health, nutrition, and wellness programs.

  • Online resources such as Benefits.gov and BenefitsCheckUp from the National Council on Aging and Eldercare Locator. These resources can direct you to potential benefits and assistance programs.

Programs like this can help pay for prescription drugs, meal programs, housing, heating bills, and legal services.

Conclusion

Growing older into your golden years doesn’t have to be complicated. By utilizing the various resources available and talking to your loved ones, friends, and healthcare professionals, you can make a conscious decision to age at home and make it an enjoyable time of your life.

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