With age comes wisdom, right? We also understand that with age come challenges as they relate to aging in place and being able to perform all of the tasks we’ve become accustomed to. Even with this said, aging also brings positive rewards to both the aging and to the caregivers involved.
What are some of the positive aspects of caring for elderly relatives and of aging itself? Here are a few:
Both you and your parents are likely more mellow and that can help with the coping skills necessary for them to rely on you as a caregiver because the reversal of roles is not always an easy thing to deal with.
You can all benefit from the confidence gained by working together. Your aging relatives will see that you are not only competent, but that you have taken the lessons they instilled in you as you were growing up and put them into practice. As a caregiver, you can also see the benefits of the assistance you’re providing your parents – you are able to help them now as they helped you when you were growing up.
If you have grandchildren, having them spend time with you and your aging parents is a great way to deepen their bonds. Grandchildren can help to keep your aging parents “young” and your parents will likely be thrilled to have children in the home. Grandchildren can also help reignite curiosity and playfulness into their lives.
By spending time together – both in the home and outside of it – you’re helping your aging loved ones to broaden their circle of friendships. This is especially true if you’re introducing them to outside activities as a way to keep them healthy, active and engaged.
You may be more motivated to spend time together because, frankly as we age we realize how precious time is and that we need to savor every moment. Your aging parents might be more inclined to volunteer, undertake leisure activities that may have gotten pushed aside during the child-rearing years or they might even want to take a class at the local senior center or college.
Aging is a fact of life, but you can take a proactive and positive approach and welcome the changes that it brings to the lives of both the aging parent and the caregiver.
Aging in place is one of the last bastions of independence for many seniors. If your aging loved ones have been determined to hold onto their independence in this way, you know that equipping them with a personal emergency response system can help them achieve this goal. Investing in a personal medical alarm device should be brought up to your loved ones in such a way as to let them know that using one of these devices isn’t taking away any independence, but is actually assisting them with their desire to age in place.
Many individuals will say they don’t want to wear a personal medical device because they believe it will mean they are “unfit” or “not healthy enough” to live alone. If you share with them that these devices are worn as a preventative measure in the event they suffer a medical emergency or a trip or fall (which is a very real and startling statistic for individuals aged 65 and older) they may see the benefit of wearing one.
How can you appeal to the emotional side of this conversation? Here are some tips:
“It’s a fact of life, Mom and Dad, that people over the age of 65 are more likely to experience a trip or fall” as a way to let them know that if they have a personal medical alarm device, a simple push of the button will provide access to medical care and treatment and therefore they have a better chance at recovery.
“We worry about you.” This statement could be especially true if your parent is widowed and lives alone. Even if both parents are still living, each of them can have a personal medical device and this will provide peace of mind for the family.
“It’s for peace of mind.” If you let your aging loved ones know it’s as much for your peace of mind as it is for their health they may agree to the device as a way to not only allow them to remain independent in their own home, but as a way to provide you peace of mind. It’s a win-win.
If your loved ones are more logical than emotional, here are some logical arguments you can share with them for the importance of having a personal medical device in their home (and on their person):
One out of three individuals aged 65 and older will fall in the home. The longer they lie there without receiving medical care, the more serious the medical complications could become. Being able to press a button to gain access to medical assistance could mean the difference between a positive outcome or a negative one from a fall.
A personal medical device will allow you to age in place. These devices offer you the ability to remain independent while providing access to medical care if needed. In the event of a trip or fall or another medical emergency, you may not be able to reach a phone and with one of these devices, you won’t have to.
If your parents do not want to move into an assisted living facility, you should stress to them that one of these devices may mean they won’t have to. A personal medical device can delay that move for years, or perhaps for the duration of their lives.
If you can explain the viability of a personal medical device and equate it to an insurance policy – it’s something you pay for and hope you never need to use, but you are grateful it’s there if the time arises that you need it – your loved ones may see the benefit.
Aging is an inevitable fact of life and with aging comes the realization that we may be faced at some point with the inability to live independently. Whether making a move to an assisted living facility or moving into the home of a family member, aging-in-place is a dream that many seniors do not want to give up on.
Are there ways to age “successfully” so that you can stay independent? Are there steps you can take today (regardless of your age) to assure that you are healthy, remain active, and are able to live in your own home for as long as possible? Yes. There are steps you can take, lifestyle changes you can implement and devices you can equip your home with that will make it possible for you to age-in-place for a longer period of time. What does “successful” aging mean? It is a lifestyle that incorporates health and wellness and overall activity into daily routines.
Retirement and aging usually go hand in hand and this can mean a change in household income. Because of diminished income budgeting can become a concern for seniors, but there are ways to successfully age on a budget.
What can you do today, on a budget, that will help you age gracefully? Here are some tips:
Keep your mind active. Read books. Do crossword puzzles. Keep up with daily world events and news in the newspaper or on the Internet. Keeping your brain active and involved could help stave off dementia.
Save money by growing your own vegetables or herbs. Starting a garden, whether you have a large plot of land or will be undertaking container gardening on a patio means you will have something to do daily with caring for the plants. Growing your own also provides ready access to fresh fruits or vegetables and provides heart healthy options for meal choices.
Stay active in your community or church by volunteering and attending activities those groups have planned. Getting out of the house, socializing and being involved in a cause or group you support boosts mental and emotional health and well-being.
Stay in touch with friends and family. It’s easy to “forget” to pick up the phone and call your children or grandchildren. Make a weekly date to touch base. Set aside an hour (or more) and settle in for a chat just to catch up. If you’re internet savvy set up, or have a family member set up, a private family Facebook group where you can talk freely and share family photos without the worry of strangers seeing your information.
Age-proof your house by clearing out clutter, making certain all carpets and rugs are slip proof. Update or upgrade your bathroom with grab bars and non slip surfaces in the bathtub and bathroom floor.
Prepare for health or medical emergencies and offer peace of mind by investing in a home medical monitoring device. Wearing a personal safety device means that at the push of a button, medical help can be summoned. Whether you’re unsteady on your feet or are dealing with other health issues such as diabetes or heart conditions, a medical alert system can be a literal life saver.
Talk with your family members so they are aware of your desire to age-in-place and work with them to make this dream a reality.
Visiting a doctor is usually not high on the top of anyone’s list of “things I love to do,” but in order to maintain good health and retain the ability to age in place, certain medical tests are recommended as are annual check-ups.
Medical guidelines on required testing are continually changing and if you only visit your physician when you’re ill, chances are you are missing out on medical tests that could catch potential medical issues; the earlier they are caught, the earlier they can be treated. Being proactive about your health is the best piece of advice as you age.
Here are some items to discuss with your physician and some tests that should be performed to keep you healthy as you age:
Become diligent in setting up an appointment for an annual check-up. When you only visiting the doctor when you’re ill, that is not the time for him to perform an annual wellness check. During an annual check-up, your doctor will gather information about changes in your overall health, your lifestyle, your living situation, any changes in weight and any other concerns you may have. He may also recommend you get the flu vaccine annually. Other vaccines he may recommend include: shingles, this is a one-time shot given to individuals aged 60 and older; tetanus vaccines are given every ten years; vaccines for pneumonia are recommended for individuals aged 65 and older or for those with compromised immune systems.
Health measurement tests such as having your blood pressure checked and your cholesterol levels monitored are recommended. Your blood pressure is typically checked every time you visit your doctor, should be done at least every two years or annually if your numbers are high. High blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of stroke or heart disease. A baseline cholesterol should be taken at least every five years unless you had a test resulting in elevated numbers.
When is the last time you visited a dentist? You should be seeing him every six months. A professional cleaning will help catch any potential cavities and check for gum disease. Your dental health can be an indicator to your overall health.
Having your eyes checked should be done at least every one to three years or even more often if you are having vision problems or feel you need a new prescription for your glasses. In addition to a vision exam, your eye doctor will also be checking for cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Female-specific testing includes an annual mammogram, unless you are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Your insurance provider and even your gynecologist may debate how often you need a mammogram and she is the best source for advice in this matter. Unless you have had an abnormal pap test, it is recommended to receive a screening every five years.
Bone density tests are recommended for both men, over the age of 70, and women, over the age of 65. A bone density test shows how many minerals and calcium you have in your bones and can let you know whether you are at risk for osteoporosis.
When you reach age 50, you should have a colonoscopy and then one is recommended every five to ten years, depending on the results of the initial test.
Male only testing involves a prostate exam which your doctor will perform when you reach age 50.
Making time to schedule an annual examination with your doctor is an ideal way to not only maintain good health but to catch any potential health issues before they become dire. Prevention can go a long way in your ability to age in place.
Because falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the elderly, it is crucial that steps are taken to prevent both falls and the health issues that could lead to a fall. It’s also estimated that close to three million people, aged 65 and older, are treated in the emergency room for falls annually.
Death rates from falls in the elderly rose more than 55% between 1993 and 2003 and that could be because people are living longer, living alone, and are more frail, all factors which increase the likelihood of falls. One of the main reasons cited for admission into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because of a fall.
As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remain cognizant of the most common reasons the elderly suffer a fall, they are:
Medications that can cause disorientation, sleepiness or sleeplessness and dizziness
Visual impairment caused by cataracts or glaucoma
Cognitive impairments caused by either Alzheimer’s or dementia
Balance issues which could be caused by mobility issues, loss of muscle strength or diminished flexibility
Blood sugar or blood pressure issues that could lead to dizziness upon standing
If your relatives are determined to remain independent and age in place, there are steps they can take, and you can help them with, to make that a possibility. Here are some steps you can take to help them avoid a fall and help maintain a stronger body:
Eating a balanced diet and drinking milk or getting calcium or Vitamin D from the foods they eat will help keep their bones strong.
Bone-strength building exercises such as walking, dancing, aerobic exercise or resistance training helps build both bone and muscle strength. You should check with their physician first to see if they are healthy enough to undertake an exercise routine. Even if your elderly relatives use a walker or a cane they can still become more active simply by getting up and moving every hour.
Balance can be improved by practicing yoga and daily stretches
Annual hearing and vision exams will detect any issues before they cause a trip or fall accident.
Ask the pharmacist whether any of the medications they take can cause any dizziness issues, especially when used in combination with each other.
Avoid using alcohol as it can interact with medications and add to drowsiness or dizziness
As part of your elderly relatives aging in place, make certain the home has been age-proofed to prevent trips or falls. Here are some measures to take:
Make certain hallways and closets are well lit. Install motion sensor lights with timers that will turn on and off upon entering or leaving a room.
Keep all walkways clear of clutter and power cords
All rugs should be secured to the floor with non-slip tape
A lamp should be next to the bed where it can be easily reached during the night. A touch lamp is a great option and prevents having to fumble around in the dark to find the switch.
All stairways should be in good repair and should have non skid treads on them.
Handrails should be installed on all stairways and even next to the toilet.
Grab bars should be installed in the shower and bathtub.
The bathroom should also have non skid rubber floor mats to prevent stepping onto a wet floor.
Put items that you use regularly within easy reach. Waist height is ideal placement for items in the kitchen and bathroom.
Helping your elderly relatives age-in-place if a gift for all family members. You can also help your relatives remain independent by offering them a home medical alert device. These devices can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a trip or fall or other health emergency.
Remaining independent and aging in place is usually a goal for all adults. Being able to live in the family home and take care of the finances and other household chores is important for both mind and body for the aging senior and their adult children. There may come a time though when the adult children begin to notice signs that their parents are unable to live alone and steps must be taken.
The steps don’t necessarily need to be as drastic as downsizing to a retirement home, but could be as simple as equipping the home with a medical monitoring device. These devices help seniors remain independent for much longer because they not only offer peace of mind but provide access to medical care at the push of a button.
Here are five warning signs that adult children should be aware of and address:
Are the bills delinquent? If there is money available to pay the bills, but they aren’t getting paid on time, there could be any number of reasons. Remaining current on bills, especially the utility bills could mean the difference between having heat and electricity or not. If there has been the loss of one of the spouses, you may find that the deceased spouse had been the one responsible for paying the bills and the remaining spouse is not equipped to take on the role.
Are they spending their money wisely? There are many individuals out there who prey on the elderly either by conning them out of their money or by convincing them to buy goods or services that they simply don’t need. Impress upon your aging parents the fact that they shouldn’t buy anything from anyone that is going door-to-door. They should also not fall prey to individuals that call them and ask for their personal financial information.
Is the house falling into disrepair or is it becoming cluttered? If your parents were at one time scrupulous about keeping the interior and exterior of the home properly maintained and that is no longer happening, it may mean they are in need of assistance with both inside and outside help. If a family member can’t take on the role of caregiver or maintenance person, you may need to hire an individual to take on the task. Check references before hiring anyone and trusting them with your relatives.
Are they making changes to financial accounts? If your parents are opening or closing bank accounts and adding other individuals to these accounts, this should raise a red flag. Also, make certain they are not purchasing or cancelling insurance policies – again these are scams perpetrated on seniors by con artists. There have also been instances where an in-home caregiver has bilked the senior out of funds through fraudulent means. Impress upon your parents the fact that no changes should be made to bank accounts or insurance policies without first talking to family members.
Take the time to run an annual (free) credit report on your parents behalf; this is a great way to monitor their credit for unusual activities and make certain they haven’t been the victim of any identity theft.
It may not be an easy conversation to have with your aging parents as they will want you to believe they are still able to live independently, but if you let them know you’re concerned, chances are you can have an open and honest conversation about their finances and living arrangements. As long as they are aware that you have their best interests at heart, they will be forthcoming.
Studies show that individuals who remain active and involved have an improved brain function and an overall sense of well-being. For many individuals, retirement brings with it a wealth of free-time but may also bring a feeling of being disconnected. Because people spend so many years juggling family, careers and other daily responsibilities, the downtime associated with retirement may lead to despair and depression. A way to combat this lack of purpose that comes with retirement is by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are myriad and include the sense of well-being from helping others as well as having a sense of purpose cannot be discounted.
Some of the benefits of volunteering include:
Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s: Because volunteers feel a greater satisfaction with their lives and have a higher quality of life than those who don’t volunteer, the risk of Alzheimer’s can be lessened.
Lower rate of mortality: Getting up and out of the house on a semi-regular basis not only benefits the charity or place they volunteer but it also benefits him or her by keeping them active, social and engaged in the community.
Keeping bones and joints strong. UCLA researchers found that “productive activities” could prevent the onset of frailty, a condition marked by low energy, low strength, weight loss and lowered physical activity. Reducing the impact of frailty could help a senior avoid a trip or fall accident which befalls many seniors over the age of 65.
Brain function improvements: Seniors that participate in activities remain more alert and cognizant and this can help them age in place for more years than those who don’t participate in outside activities.
In addition to the benefits listed, volunteering offers immediate satisfaction by imparting a sense of accomplishment, purpose, enhanced social skills and helping by staying connected and involved. As a caregiver it may be a good idea to discuss the possibility of volunteering with the seniors in your life. Help them find an organization that is a good fit for their skills and abilities. Helping keep them active will enhance their ability to remain active and enable them to live independently.
The cost of both aging in place and the cost of private care in an assisted living facility or nursing home continues to increase. It’s anticipated that by 2028 the cost of private nursing home care will double from its levels today. Additionally, the government has forecast that there could be a 50% increase in those individuals aged 65 or older and that could put a strain the resources available for nursing home care.
Aging is something that should be anticipated, especially as it typically means more time for travel and relaxation and time spent with family and grandchildren. For peace of mind, though it is imperative that steps be taken to address the need for care as you age, whether that care will be in your own home, a private facility or with a family member. Leaving the task up to your caregivers is a daunting one as they may be unaware of your wishes or your finances. Spending time with family members to formulate a plan for either aging in place or making a move to another location should be done well in advance of the need arising. While it is not an easy conversation to have, it relieves the burden on your potential caregivers and helps assure that you will have the care you desire as you age.
Here are some items to discuss with your family:
Your financial situation
Where your medical records and other medical papers are stored
What options you’d prefer as it relates to in-home care or moving to an assisted living facility or whether you’d move in with a family member
What state or federal benefits you have available to pay for your care
Access to your health and life insurance policies and information
What steps you’d like taken in your care and the signing of a health care proxy
What steps you can take to make your home more secure and safe as you age and the potential of installing a medical alert device in the home to make certain that if a health issue arises, you have access to immediate medical emergency care.
An essential element in your retirement and health planning will be funding the lifestyle to which you’ve been accustomed and would like to retain. Working with a financial adviser or a family member to arrange your finances to accommodate your needs is a task better done sooner rather than later to assure you have the cash flow necessary when the time comes to retire.
Moving is stressful for anyone at any age and that stress is amplified when a senior citizen needs to consider a move to a new home. Your aging relatives are accustomed to the family home and are comfortable with the location of items in the kitchen and the placement of the light switches and other familiar objects; it’s easy to see how a move to an assisted living facility could lead to increased stress.
As we age, the more stressful and dangerous, it can be to move to a new location. With care and diligence your relatives may be able to stay in the family home much longer than they’d been able to in the past.
Age-proofing the home with senior-friendly devices, proper layout of furniture and placement of items in cupboards are action items that can help your loved ones live safely at home. Look at the home and its set up, with a critical eye. Perhaps having your parents relocate to a single floor of the home will ease fears of falling on the stairs. It may make sense to equip the bathroom with senior-friendly tub and shower set ups. Another reasonable step is to provide a medical alert system to help them in the event of a fall or medical emergency.
Some of the benefits of aging in place are:
The feeling of being independent
“Home” offers comfort, memories and personal belongings.
Feeling the security of being in their familiar space.
Familiarity with the community, neighborhood and block they live in. This increases safety as they navigate their normal routes while driving to the store, pharmacy or church.
Cost savings (especially if the home is paid off) vs. cost of assisted living.
Help your loved one maintain a lifestyle that is healthy, active and rewarding by taking steps early to ensure they are doing all they can to remain independent.
Regardless of how old or frail your parents are, it’s a difficult transition to make from them being the caretaker to becoming the care recipient. Just as it may be uncomfortable for you to jump into their lives and offer help, they may balk at the idea of having to give up independence and ask for assistance. One of the biggest fears most individuals have as they age is the idea of having to move out of their family home and into an assisted living facility.
There are steps you can take, along with your aging parents’ input, that may make it possible for them to remain independent in their home. The decision to age-in-place has many factors that need to be considered and there may be a time when it simply isn’t a feasible option, but until that time, here are some items to look into to help them stay at home and remain independent:
Check with social service agencies in your community to see what kind of services are available to your aging parents. You may also want to look into a geriatric care manager; these individuals work as a liaison between you and your aging relatives and some social service agencies. Ask your parents’ doctor for advice as well, on senior services.
Alter the home to make it more senior friendly. Add a home medical monitoring device and use a medical alert pendant for each individual in the home. These devices offer 24/7 peace of mind and provide a way for your aging relative to have immediate access to medical care in the event of a trip or fall accident or other health emergency. Install motion activated light switches, upgrade the bathroom and make certain there are non slip rugs on all floors and in the bathtub, move items throughout the house to a level that can be reached without having to step on a step stool.
Look into home meal delivery systems. Most areas have a Meals-on-Wheels service or something similar in nature. This is generally available for those who are housebound and those seniors that are still mobile but who simply don’t want to cook meals every day of the week.
Check into shuttle services or transportation services for the elderly. These transportation providers can get your relatives to and from doctor’s visits, days out at a senior center where they can interact and socialize.
Check with the local library to see if it offers a book delivery service. This may be a great way to keep your aging relatives supplied with reading material or even books on tape.
Ask your aging parents what issues they feel they’re having in the home and look for products or service providers that can help address them.
Keep your aging relatives involved with family events by inviting them to parties, dinners out and making certain you stop by to visit on a regular basis.