Have your parents let you know that they want to stay in their own home, no matter what? That wouldn't be surprising. According to AARP, 87% of adults over the age of 65 want to stay in their current home and community as they age.1
This can be difficult as an adult child because you want to make sure that your parent is safe at home. You might worry that your parent won’t be able to afford living at home. Many adult children fear that their aging parent will be at a high risk for loneliness and isolation. Another frequent concern are falls and not being able to drive as they age.2
Aging in place can be successful though with the proper preparation and planning. Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports that, to help your parents age in place safely, you'll need these 5 strategies:
1. Learn How to Talk to Your Aging Parent About Aging in Place
It is never too early to have this often difficult conversation with your parents! Start talking to them as soon as possible about planning for care as they age in place. Together you can put a plan in place that makes sure that your parent is safe at home.
Ask your parents what is important to them. Listen carefully to the answers. Your aging parent needs to feel heard and that their wishes have value. They may state they want their privacy respected. Or that they feel worried about keeping up with the outside maintenance of their home. The laundry may be overwhelming them. Or they hate the thought of eating alone every day. Your parent might let you know that they don’t feel safe driving.
Knowing what your parent worries about and what they want will help you plan for their care. Together you can then make up a plan that addresses their safety and options for care.
2. Address Safety Concerns for Aging in Place
You will want to look at these three basic safety needs for your parent when they are aging in place. Older adults are most at risk of falling, burning themselves, or poisoning.
Part of your discussion with your parent will be how to adapt the home to prevent these risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that people over the age of 65 are at a high risk for falls. Falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors in the United States.4
There are simple and effective ways to prevent falls. Decide with your parents which steps you will take first.
Review with your parent fire safety and make sure that a phone is easy to access. Check that appliances, electric cords and outlets are in good working condition. Install a smoke detector and check the batteries twice a year.
Poisonings are often related to carbon monoxide, improper medication use and cleaning products. Tips for safety include:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Talk to your pharmacist about having medications labelled.
- Request medications blister packed to reduce the chance of confusion.
- Clean out the cleaning supplies and only keep a minimal amount of cleaning products on hand.
3. Have a Plan to Accommodate Changes to their Daily Routine
To help your parent age in place you will need to look at their regular activities of daily living and how their abilities may change.
Activities of daily living include:
- The ability to keep moving
Talk to your parents about options for meals. You might consider grocery delivery. You can have meals delivered through a program like Meals on Wheels. Or hire a caregiver to assist with meal preparation.
Often your parent’s home will need changes to make bathing, dressing and mobility easier. These are renovations that should be done as soon as possible.
The bathroom is a dangerous place and the room where falls are most likely to occur! You can help keep your parent safe by:
- Having handrails professionally installed
- Making sure that there are non-skid bath mats
- Using a shower chair with a handheld shower-head
- Installing a raised toilet seat or frame
Also look at universal design principles! You can improve the quality of life and level of independence for your parent. Re-modelling their home can make it easier to bathe, dress and move around the house.5
4. Meet the Need for Companionship
If your parent is living alone they are at risk for loneliness and the health consequences that follow. Loneliness and isolation can often cause:
- Lower brain function
- Chronic illness
Talk to your parent about a plan to make sure that they stay connected with others. Arrange to see them on a regular basis. Or if you are long distance than set up regular phone or Skype conversations.
You might need to enlist the help of family members, friends and community members. Ask them to stop in and visit with your parent on a regular basis. Adult day care centers and local senior centers make special efforts to keep people connected.
Companionship is necessary for the relationship but also provides another safety measure. When you have somebody seeing your parent everyday it is reassuring. You know that they haven’t fallen or become sick.
5. Know What Are the Options for Care
It is vital to talk to talk to your parents about what care options are available to age in place. In-home care does not need to be an all or nothing commitment.
The best approach when talking with your parent is to ask what they feel is their biggest concern. Many seniors will be comfortable with the idea of hiring a cleaner to come in for housekeeping once a week. Or having meals delivered.
Discuss with your parent about talking to a reliable home care provider. The care provider can set up a client care manager who will discuss what care options are available.
Professional care services can assist with:
- Medication reminders
- Fall prevention
- Grocery shopping
- Companionship and care
Aging in place can be successful for your parent! Your role is to prepare and know what the options are for care before there is an emergency.
Set up a plan now so you will spend less time at night worrying about your parent. Then you can continue to enjoy the relationship you have.