Tips for Seniors to Safely Age in Place
Updated: Aug 3, 2018
By June Duncan
Increasingly, seniors are seeking to age in place, meaning that they’d prefer to live out their lives at home under their own terms and not in an assisted living or nursing home involuntarily. For some seniors, aging in place is not an option, such as for those with advanced Alzheimer’s or a serious disease that requires 24-hour nursing services. For those with moderate needs, such as difficulty moving about or early onset Alzheimer’s, or those with no conditions other than old age, living at home makes financial sense and can help them maintain integrity.
The Economic Benefits of Aging in Place
Aging in place can cost much less than private nursing home care and assisted living. While certain modifications may be necessary, these are usually one-time expenses. Nursing homes can cost close to $100,000 a year, while assisted living can easily exceed $40,000 annually. These expenses continually rise. For someone who does not need the full-time attention that is provided at these facilities, a fraction of the cost can be used to bolster aging in place and ensuring that homes are safe.
If a senior desires to age in place, this wish can comprise the foundation of their long-
term care planning. As one ages, traditional long-term care planning may entail setting aside extra funds to cover nursing home expenses. The savings realized from postponing these living expenses can be invested for such time where nursing home care is necessary. The funds can also be used to pay for aid and attendance care, such as the use of occasional visiting nurses or home health care providers. With an aging in place plan, some of these funds can also be reserved for accessibility modifications that may be necessary to ensure the senior's comfort and safety. Types of Accessibility Modifications
There are numerous ways to make your home appropriate for aging in place. If your home has steps at all entranceways and you experience mobility limitations, a ramp can help eases you in and out of your home. Accessibility modifications can include simple grab bars and handrails to more complicated projects such as stair lifts and widening doorways. Bathrooms and kitchens can be retrofitted to ease wheelchair and walker access, such as through walk-in tubs and wheelchair accessible sinks. These modifications are especially helpful since bathrooms can become hazard zones for senior living.
There may even be sources of funding for certain home accessibility modifications. Check with your local government and certified aging-in-place contractors to obtain information about available programs in your area.
Part of an aging in place plan may include downsizing to a different home. For those who have built a life in a large family home, the empty bedrooms and second-floor living areas may be impractical. Rather than expanding significant sums of money to retrofit an old house, it may make more sense to find a simple, single-level home. The sale of your old home can provide funds for purchasing the new accessible model, and if there are savings between the cost of maintaining a large house and a smaller one, you can invest that difference into future long-term care planning.
Safety is the overriding factor to be considered in aging in place plans. If you can live at home and ensure that you will be injury-free, then paying for nursing home care is not sensible. Speak to your doctor about mobility and safety concerns. While aging in place can help seniors maintain dignity and save costs, neither of these benefits are worth risking injury.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.
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