How to Help Someone Age in Place
A hot new phrase these days is “aging in place”, which means living in the residence of your choice for as long as you are able. Many older adults would prefer to stay in their own homes, and live independently, rather than move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Many people experience a better quality of life when they are allowed to live where they choose to, and making a home compatible with the challenges of aging is essential. Read on to learn more about aging in place, and what you can do to ensure that your own, or a loved one’s, experience is as positive as possible.
Why Age in Place?
Aging in place gives you independence, a better quality of life, and dignity. This does not mean that you plan to do all of the same things you did when you were 20 into older age; it means that you are prepared to face the challenges that aging can present. Some choices that you must make are how you want to spend your time after retirement, where you want to live, what kinds of health care you want, what assistance you would like, and what you want to happen in the event of sickness or injury. With the growing number of adults over the age of 65, our country is facing an unprecedented number of adults in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but many would rather stay at home. Remaining in your own home can be a great financial decision, as long as you plan for the changes of aging.
Changes As We Age
It is inevitable that aging will bring changes, both physical and mental, to us all. Preparing for these changes and being proactive will make this transition time much easier. Some of the changes that we experience as we age include:
- Decreased muscle strength
- Decreased endurance
- Reduced vision
- Reduced hearing
- Decreased mobility
- Lowered immune system
- Brain changes including memory loss
- Bone and joint weakness
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Dental concerns including gingivitis and tooth loss
- Dry skin and skin sensitivity
The challenges that come with these changes must be addressed if aging in place is to be successful. If you are wanting to maintain independence, or the independence of a loved one, you should plan for how you will address these changes. Many daily activities that are taken for granted can become difficult as we age.
Challenges of Aging
These challenges may not become obvious until someone is really struggling, as the effects of aging can be slow and subtle. Challenges in housing, health care, food preparation, and more can all impact an individual’s quality of life. A house that you have lived in most of your life can suddenly become a place that is not accessible. Stairs are a major obstacle for people who are experiencing muscle weakness and limited mobility, and can unnecessarily tire you out. Moving to a location where there are no stairs, or less stairs, can help someone stay in their home longer. Having wheelchair accessibility can also be helpful, and not just for wheelchairs. If you use a cane or a walker, the easy transitions in doorways, wide rooms, and showers can help you navigate your home more easily. Another big challenge to aging in place lies in the long term care that is needed for many aging individuals. It is projected that by 2035 as many as 12 million individuals will need personal-care assistance if they are to stay in their homes. Having family members provide assistance, and taking care of yourself to lessen the care you need, are both important steps in being able to age in place. Meals, including grocery shopping, preparation, and cleaning up, can also be problematic, but it is essential for good health to continue getting good nutrition and proper hydration. Transportation to doctor’s appointments, and to stay social also becomes more challenging as we age. But there are solutions!
Aging in Place Essentials
There are many steps you can take to making your home and environment more friendly to aging in place. Most of these things can be done over time, as you anticipate they will be needed. Consider the following for yourself or a loved one to help aging in place be more comfortable and easy:
The bathroom is a room that can be challenging for older individuals. Slippery floors, inaccessible showers or tubs, and small spaces that are hard to navigate can all make for a bad bathroom experience. Things that can help in here include grab bars near the toilet, and in the shower or tub for stability, and hand-held shower heads and a shower chair that can let you bathe more comfortably from a sitting position. Getting on and off of the toilet can be difficult as well, and a toilet riser can make this easier. Having a shower that is walk-in, or a tub that allows for easy access can also be beneficial—the last place you want to fall is when you are bathing. Making the bathroom more accessible can make aging in place much more comfortable.
The bedroom should be a place of relaxation and rest, and with some foresight you can ensure that it stays that way as you age. An adjustable bed can offer great support and flexibility, and keeping a waterproof cover on can help with incontinence. A night light in the bedroom (and other rooms) can help you navigate easily when you get up in the middle of the night. Bedside tables that allow you to easily access lights, water, glasses, and books are great, and soft carpeting can eliminate slips and falls getting in or out of bed.
The living room should be a place that is easy to navigate and offers seating that is comfortable for both homeowners and guests. Having a chair or sofa that allows you to easily get up is great, and allowing for guests to enjoy their time will keep you social as well. If your living room is cluttered, clearing out unnecessary items will make your pathways clear and prevent falls. If you have a hard floor, consider adding in a secure rug to eliminate any slipping and falling.
Many people love to cook, bake, and entertain, and don’t want to lose those skills as they age. Setting up your kitchen to be as accessible as possible will ensure that you can continue to prepare your own meals. Cabinets should be easily reached, and heavy pots and pans should not be stored in hard to reach areas. If you need to use a stepstool or ladder to access some items, just move them to lower levels and leave those cabinets empty. A wall oven that doesn’t require you bending over to pull out hot items is helpful as well. Drawers, pull-out shelves in lower cabinets, and lazy susans can all help you access the items you need frequently. Make your kitchen as accessible as possible for years of cooking enjoyment.
If you have an entryway with steps you might want to consider a ramp even if you are not in a wheelchair. A ramp offers flexibility that stairs don’t, and is helpful even for those who are still mobile. Transitions that are raised between rooms can be difficult to navigate as well, and easing those can make navigation easier.
As mentioned earlier, stairs are not very friendly for aging in place. However, there are ways to make them easier, including chair stair lifts, carpeting wood stairs, and installing sturdy railings on both sides of the stairway. If you are considering buying a home to age in, look for one with minimal to no stairs.
As we age, our vision capabilities decrease and seeing clearly can become a challenge. Good lighting is crucial for a home to age in, and lighting that is easily accessed from multiple entry and exit points throughout the room. A larger T.V., large-print books, or magnifiers can help you not strain while you are watching your favorite program or reading your favorite books. Get a vision screening if you are having trouble, and new glasses, contacts, or readers can make all the difference.
Emergency Response System
With nearly a third of falls involving people over 65 occurring in their homes, it is crucial to have help nearby in case of an accident. There are many emergency response systems, or medical alert systems, that you can wear around your neck, wrist, or belt. These buttons can summon emergency help in the event that you are not able to get to a phone, and can give family members and friends peace of mind that you will not be stuck in the event of an emergency.
Did you know that impaired hearing can not only lead to an increased risk of falling, but can affect your quality of life? Hearing troubles can cause you to become isolated, and keep you from the activities and social events that you used to love. Hearing is also essential for balance, and keeps you alert to your environment. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing impairment don’t wait to seek help! A hearing aid can mean the difference between aging in place peacefully in the home of your choice, and needing to move, reducing your activities, or having an increased risk of injury. Hearing aids can restore sounds that you thought were lost, and help you hear your friends and relatives on the phone, music you love, and the T.V. and radio programs you are used to.
Factory Direct Hearing would love to help you make at least one area of aging in place easier, and that is why we provide the highest quality hearing aids that you can purchase online and have delivered directly to your door! Our hearing aids come preprogrammed and ready to use, and only require a hearing test! Aging in place is a great choice for many individuals, and with the right tools, preparation, and home improvements you can make aging in place much easier. Don’t wait for problems to build up—be proactive and make your home suitable for the challenges that you may face. Factory Direct Hearing would love to provide you the hearing aids that help with any hearing impairment—check out our great selection today!