Part III in Series on “Aging Well”
‘’ITS ALWAYS TOO SOON UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE”
If you are one of those people who say “I am staying put, thank you,” then you are not alone! Literature states that 90% of adults want to “age in place.” That is because we all assume that nothing will happen, that we will be the same at age 85 as we were at age 55. In part II of this Series on “Aging Well”, we learned that this is not so. The body declines, the physical changes slow us down and we begin to need help with day-to-day living.
Consequences of Aging
Now consider what day-to day living would be like if your eye sight is failing and driving is not safe; or your gait is unsteady and you have fallen a couple of times; or your muscle strength is weak and climbing the stairs to the bedroom is too difficult? The consequence of not being able to drive is a loss of independence and isolation. The consequence of an unsteady gait and loss of balance is the potential for serious falls. Home maintenance becomes overwhelming and is either ignored or help is needed which signals to friends and family that you are no longer independent. Before it is too late, it is helpful to identify your dreams and goals and then discuss then with your family. In addition, it is important to address your financial realities and lastly, evaluate your home setting for safety as you age in place. Planning ahead is critical. In other words, “Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.”
Evaluating Your Home Setting
When evaluating your home setting it is helpful to ask yourself the following hard questions:
- Do I need help with now?
- Who is available to help me?
- Can I live on one floor in my current home?
- Am I anxious when left alone?
- Am I able to call for help in an emergency? Who would I call?
- Am I comfortable with people coming into my home to help me?
- Lastly and most importantly–Can I afford OR, am I willing to pay people to do what I can no longer do?
Home Modifications and Fall Prevention
What will it take to age in my own home? Falls are one of the biggest safety hazard for those 65 and older. The Center for Disease Control in 2012 reported that 24,000 older adults die each year from a fall. Of those falls, 20-30% result in a serious injury and many of those with a serious injury fail to return to their previous level of functioning. So, plan on basic home modifications.
The simplest and cheapest home modifications cost less than $1,000. They include installing grab bars in the bathroom, making the shower accessible, taking up scatter rugs, securing electrical cords and decluttering for ease of movement; installing rails on both sides of stairs inside and outside; upgrading lighting at entrance/exits, halls and bathroom. For an additional $35 to $40 per month purchase a Life Alert System.
Moderate home modification costs range from $4,500-$30,000. These modifications might include a stair glide to reduce stair use or rearrange space to create one-level living. Major modifications can cost from $8,000 to $75,000 to widen doorways, revise kitchen and bathroom to accommodate a wheel chair, install ramps etc. The MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0 offers more detailed information on home modifications. It is available at www.giaging.org/…/the-metlife-report-on-aging-in-place-20.
In addition to making home modifications, at some point, service and care providers will be needed if you decide to stay at home. That list might include a cleaning service, handyman, lawn service, taxi or other transportation service, geriatric care manager to help coordinate and manage medical care, professional caregivers such as a certified nursing assistant to help with bathing, dressing, light housekeeping or medication reminders, to name a few. Supportive help and care are additional costs that are not always factored into the decision to age in place.
Hopefully this “Aging Well” series has made you aware of what it takes to age in place. Knowledge is power. Anticipating the physical changes that are inevitable enables action. The question remains—what decision path will I take? The crisis management plan– “It’s always too soon until it’s too late” OR the action plan—”Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” Aging in place is a choice you have now!
About the author: Judy Grumbly, Principal of AGE, LLC is an experienced certified aging life care manager, an adult nurse practitioner and a licensed registered nurse. Her career path in home care has taken her from the city of Boston, to the mountains of Colorado, to the suburbs of Northern Virginia. In each setting, the mission was to help aging adults maintain their independence in the home setting through education, support with appropriate community resources and coordination of care. Judy is currently the President of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) and on the Board of the Arlington Neighborhood Village.]