By Molly Wisniewski
Designing a Plan to Age in Place
The desire to stay in our homes as we age is more popular now than ever. And it is no wonder why. The comforts of living in our own home are appealing when compared to the idea of making a move into a care home or assisted living facility. However, there is a growing segment of our population who age in place that are being disconnected from basic systems due to no longer having access to transportation, a lack of family support, a recent loss of a spouse, or a recent decline in cognition.
Typically, the most substantial issues found for this population while aging in place are; falls, lack of accessible transportation, and isolation. These are mostly non-medical matters, which makes it difficult to fully rely on the health care system to meet these needs. The 65 and older community is the largest population receiving health services. But, even if a person is admitted to the hospital with a fall injury, this encounter with the system won’t replace the carpet the person tripped on. As we devise a plan to age in place it is critical then to plan that our physical environment can adapt to our changing needs and that we have supports to intervene when we are no longer able to independently seek them out. To sustainably age, in place, we should plan for in-home supports, identify resources in our community, and educate ourselves on what to look out for within our home.
We are all unique, which means each of our aging experiences will vary in needs. As we get older, however, we should at least plan for the event that we are no longer able to independently care for ourselves. This notion can be scary to consider, and for many of us, it is easy to just not think about it. Not giving any thought to our primary care needs puts us at risk for others making these types of decisions for us.
Knowing what types of organizations and services are available to you within your community is a great place to start. Many companies will allow you to call in and ask a question for free and with no commitment. Due-diligence in your research makes it easier to create a list of potential services that interest you and companies that you have found trustworthy and friendly to work with. In-home support services will range from light housekeeping to complete medical care and can vary significantly in price depending on the service. Keep up on the local rates so that there aren’t any surprises later.
Our neighbors, family, friends are our primary supports system. Having conversations about how we would like to age in place, making a point to outline important aspects of our daily routine, and even creating an action plan in cases of an emergency should be priority conversations with those closest to us. Having this type of support system and educating them on what signs to look for (i.e., mail piling up or overgrown grass) can help ensure we are checked in on at the first evidence of trouble. We might not always have family or neighbors to count on, and in this case, it is also important to do a bit of research to see what type of resources are available to us in our community.
A Safe and Secure Home Checklist
If you want to age-in- place within your current home, you may want to assess the safety and security of your home. The checklist of items you should look for ranges from the general living area to your safety as you navigate through your home.
General Living Area
Well-lit areas and bright night lights available throughout the home.
Extra seating throughout the home.
All carpets are secure and area rugs are non-slip.
Cabinet items are accessible and located on lower shelves.
Handrails installed in bathroom.
All walkway spaces are free from clutter.
Things to Consider
Moving upstairs or downstairs bedroom to the first floor.
Wheelchair or Walker accessibility.
Adding a front door ramp.
Installing a walk-in shower with a chair.
Assuring that the physical layout of your home and the items within are placed in a way that creates a safe and secure living environment for your aging needs is critical to the ability to continue to live in the home. This type of prevention could also decrease the risk of falls and subsequently trips to the emergency room.
Preparation is key
The aging process, at times, can be unpredictable and of course, we cannot always anticipate for all of our future needs. However, we can create a plan and identify how and where we would like to spend our better years. Spending time to research resources in our communities, having conversations with those closest to us, and assessing our homes ability to meet our future needs are all places we can begin the planning process towards our ability to age where we want
About the Author: Molly Wisniewski has cared for older adults living with dementia for over ten years. She is a recent graduate of the Erickson School, UMBC where she received her M.A. in the Management of Aging Services. Her blog Upside to Aging is dedicated to sharing an alternative and more positive side to aging.