What is Aging in Place?
Benefits, Risks & Alternatives
Aging in place refers to the process of a person living in their home for as long as they are able to. It occurs during the time in someone’s life when they are capable of maintaining their independence and completing the tasks required by daily living. If your loved one is getting older, you may be wondering whether aging in place is the right choice or if it’d be better to seek alternatives. This article is written to help you assess your loved one’s needs and determine whether aging in place is right for them.
Considerations Around Aging in PlaceActivities of Daily Living
If your loved one is aging in place, be sure to address their capabilities when it comes to the activities of daily living (ADLs). Be cognizant of whether they can complete tasks such as getting around their home safely, driving, socializing, health maintenance, home upkeep. If they are living at home, these are all tasks that they should be able to take care of with little to no assistance.Independence
Maintaining independence is a common reason why staying at home is an attractive choice for many. When your loved one is residing in their own home, they know where everything is, how everything works, and how to get around. Their ability to complete tasks around the home may build their confidence. This may work well for a while, but there are warning signs for when the desire for independence actually works against independence. We will go into more of that soon.Familiar Setting
For many, the idea of leaving the home they’ve lived in for years is unimaginable. The memories, familiarity, and comfort that those walls provide is not an easy transition. As your loved one is faced with a decision of moving into a community or staying at home, they may have strong feelings about wanting to maintain their familiar setting. The thought of leaving their home of 40 years may be impossible to think of, and they may not see it as an option. It is completely reasonable for them to want to preserve the memories, souvenirs, trinkets, and more that come with living at home. If their ability to maintain a home begins to fade, however, other considerations become necessary. At this point, you may want to hire a home-health aide to be by your loved one’s side or start researching the benefits of senior living communities.
Why Aging in Place May Not Work
It’s easy to believe that your loved one knows what is best for them. But as you continue to spend time with them, you may notice that they’re starting to experience issues on a daily basis, and reality can start to set in. There are many reasons why aging in place may not be right for them at this point in their life.Safety Concerns
While living independently at home, your loved one must accomplish a variety of tasks without the supervision of anyone else. Their safety has always been your top priority, and now more than ever it should be top of mind. If your loved one is declining in their ability to complete activities of daily living or is beginning to trip, lose their balance, or similar issues, it cannot be ignored. Once these things begin to happen, it may be time to reconsider aging in place.Security
For an adult child, you’re now in the shoes your parents were in as they let you go, hoping everything will be okay. It can be hard trusting that your loved one is safe in their own home, especially as balance, muscle mass, and other health factors are at play. The aging population is at risk for a variety of things, and as their family, you want to protect them. One of the best ways to make sure your loved one is safe and secure is knowing there is someone there supporting them. This is another reason for considering alternative options to aging in place.Loneliness
As they age, your loved one may feel less confident in their ability to leave the home. Mobility issues and lower self-confidence can be a source of insecurity, which can open the door to isolation. When someone loses their ability to travel freely on their own, it can make them feel as if they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Losing that sense of belonging and socialization is detrimental to your loved one’s mental health. If your loved one is becoming more isolated, it may be time to look into senior living communities, which present an attractive alternative to aging in place when loneliness is an issue.Cost of Care
If your loved one is unable to get around and do the things they used to do, you may be considering home health care to prevent further health issues. However, this type of care may become very expensive as their care needs increase. This is a particular issue if they start to need care 24/7. In this case, assisted living communities become attractive options, especially if they include flat, all-inclusive rates for care.Home Maintenance is Too Much
Regardless of the size of a home, homeownership requires many tasks to be completed on a daily basis. There are common chores such as laundry, cooking, dishes, and housekeeping, all of which could become more difficult as your loved one ages. And then there are bigger maintenance issues, which are even more likely to become a problem. If your loved one is living at home, you may be asking questions like: “Are they asking their neighbor to help change an out of reach light bulb, instead of getting up on the ladder?”
In some cases, maintaining a home can become a threat to your loved one, as opposed to a relaxing activity like it used to be. This is another reason to seek alternatives to aging in place.
Why Retirement Communities Are a Great ChoiceSocialization
While living in a familiar environment can be beneficial and sentimental, isolation is not. Moving into a retirement community can open the door to socialization opportunities that your loved one didn’t know they needed. Retirement communities usually have a team that plans and curates a social calendar full of daily activities, monthly events, group outings, and more. Community dining programs also offer your loved one an opportunity to socialize, since sit-down meals are a great time to meet others.
Socialization in a retirement community can positively impact your loved one’s overall health. The mental toll that is taken when someone is alone and unable to open up to others can be overwhelming. The social life found in a community can add a brightness to your loved one’s life. Because of all the great social opportunities, it’s best to move your loved one in earlier rather than later. This will improve their ability to fully take advantage of the social events offered.Maintenance-Free Living
Retirement communities have a dedicated team to ensure that your loved one’s needs are taken care of. Whether they are in need of a routine cleaning or replacing an appliance, the team at the community is there to help. Preserving independence should be the goal of any community, and by providing services to take care of these chores of daily living, they help residents focus on what they love to do. It frees up time to be able to go on walks, attend wellness programs, social programs, lunches with friends, travel, and more. The idea that living at home provides the ultimate level of independence is proven wrong here. If your loved one can focus on the things, they love with a team that supports them, that is when real independence thrives.Wellness
Aging brings on new challenges when it comes to overall wellness. Making low impact exercise a priority helps ensure that your loved one is in optimal health. Incorporating healthy foods that are based in science is essential to their overall health. Many retirement communities have regular wellness programming to help keep residents at the peak of their health. Communities have a team that will work with your loved one on a weekly basis to ensure they achieve all they are capable of.Dining
Food brings together people of all backgrounds, adding flavor into their lives. While living in a retirement community, the dining services department can take care of all the dietary needs your love one may have. Dining options may include formal dining, cafeteria-style, take out, bistro, or buffet. Dining services vary by community, but overall, they allow your loved one to spend more time enjoying food rather than feeling like cooking is a chore. And for those who love cooking, most independent living apartments include kitchens. This means that they can cook if they choose to or carry out if they want to eat at home. The important thing is that dining is easier and more flexible in a community, which helps ensure that your loved one’s dietary needs are met.Care in One Place
Like previously mentioned, as time goes on, your loved one’s needs are going to change—whether that means skilled nursing, physical therapy, memory care, or assisted living. If they move into a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) or life plan community, all of these services will be available under one roof. As their care needs increase, they will be able to go down the hall to receive the proper care. This will alleviate any feeling of the unknown, since a caring staff is looking out for your loved one at all times.
From Aging in Place to Senior Living
Understand that it may be difficult for your loved one to come to terms with some of the realities of moving. Finding the right place and time for a move is essential to a smooth transition. Identifying their needs and what level of care they require is a good place to start. While you’re looking into communities, talk to the residents there. Many will say they wish they’d moved in sooner.