Monday, November 12, 2012

Aging in Place: Tips for Living At Home As Long As Possible

Part of the long term planning we do in Elder Law involves coordinating where seniors will live their twilight years. Two factors that strongly influence the outcome are the following: First, that seniors prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as they possibly can. Second, that the Great Recession has caused such hardship that elders are no longer as financially able to leave their homes to enter senior communities and assisted living facilities.
Needless to say, there are many financial considerations to take into account when it comes to aging in place. However, just as important, and often overlooked, is the actual physical layout and condition of the home.
Most homes are built to be suitable for people who are young, healthy, and mobile. As people age, however, their home can present challenges that make living in the home uncomfortable, difficult, and even dangerous. With proper planning and some remodeling, however, seniors' homes can remain comfortable and elder-friendly.
Lighting, for example, is important to all people, but particularly so for older people. The home should be well lit, with easy to operate switches. Designers suggest equipping many of the lights with dimmers, so that the lighting can be maintained at a comfortable level, and increased or decreased as needed. Consider rocking switches, which can be easier on arthritic fingers than a traditional light switch.
The bathroom can be a major obstacle to aging at home. Many seniors suffer from arthritis, joint problems, and limited mobility. This can make getting into a traditional shower or tub difficult. A good solution is to replace the tub or shower with a walk-in shower that, if possible, is large enough for two people to sit or stand in comfortably. This will make it easier for a caregiver to assist with bathing if it becomes necessary. If grab bars are not added at this stage of the remodeling because they are not immediately needed, it would be wise to reinforce the walls so that grab bars can be installed in the future. A temperature regulator would also be a good idea to install in the shower or bath, because older skin is less sensitive to heat and can easily be burned. Consider installing a bidet.
Flooring is another important consideration. As seniors become less mobile, they can easily trip on rugs or have problems walking on carpet. A practical alternative is to install hardwood or laminate flooring that is smooth, easy to walk on, and reduces the possibility of tripping. Hardwood or laminate flooring is also a practical solution if the occupant needs to use a wheelchair or walker. Just make sure the flooring has enough friction and is not slippery.
Other useful modifications include to use drawers instead of cupboards or cabinets where possible, raise dishwashers and low cabinets to avoid excessive bending, widen doorways if possible to accommodate a wheelchair, and design an entryway that does not require a step. Many geriatric care managers suggest that your home be modified so that you can live on the ground floor if necessary. This may require installing a bathroom on the first floor, or expanding an existing half-bathroom to a full bathroom.
As baby boomers plan for the future, they are taking into account modifications they can make to their homes now to prepare for their later years. Manufacturers have also started developing product lines to meet the demands of an aging population that wants to age in place.
If staying at home for as long as possible is important for you or your loved ones, take steps now to put plans and modifications in place to facilitate this goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment