Aging in place: Being able to grow old at home

woman smiling with senior

Many older people share the same concern – “I want to stay in my own home!”. With the right help, it may be possible to accomplish this goal. “Aging in place” means staying in your own home as you age. These tips can help you find the help you need to continue living independently as you age.

How to plan ahead for aging in place

Trying to plan in advance can be difficult because you can never be sure of how your needs may change. What you should do first is think about the services you may need in the near future. Whether you live alone or with a family member, everyone’s situation is different. Maybe you don’t need help now, but you live with someone who does. As you plan, it is a good idea to consider any illnesses, like diabetes or emphysema, that you or your spouse may have. Consult your doctor about how these health problems may affect your mobility and ability to take care of yourself. Find out what you can do to assist the older person to remain independent at home as a caregiver.

How can I age at home with the support I need?

Several of the services listed here can be obtained at your home – often at a cost. For more information on many of these services, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging and social services, or nearby senior center.

Personal Care: Are you having trouble bathing, washing your hair, or dressing yourself? Perhaps you could ask a relative or friend to help. Or, hire an aide for a short while each day.

Household Chores: Have chores like house cleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, or laundry to do? Some grocery stores and drugstores will deliver items over the phone. Cleaners and gardeners can be hired, or perhaps someone you know can suggest a housekeeper or gardener. Some housekeepers will help with laundry. Some dry cleaners will pick up and deliver your clothes.

Meals: Are you concerned you’re not eating well or are you tired of eating alone? Consider cooking with a friend or attending a potluck dinner with a group of friends. Check to see if meals are available at a local senior center or church. You may also enjoy eating out. If you have difficulty getting out, ask someone to bring you a healthy meal a few times a week. Meal delivery programs bring hot meals directly to your home; some are free or low-cost.

Money Management: If you are concerned about paying your bills too late or not at all, or if you have trouble understanding your health insurance forms, perhaps a trusted relative can help. Financial counselors, volunteers, and geriatric care managers can also help. Be sure to get the referral from a reliable source, such as your local Area Agency on Aging. Payments can also be made using your computer. Speak to your bank about this option. Having your bills paid automatically from your checking account is a convenient way to pay utilities and rent/mortgage. 

It is important to avoid money scams. Never give out your Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information to anyone over the telephone or via email. Be sure to check all your bills, including utility bills, for any charges you do not recognize.

Learn about ways to protect your social security and Medicare benefits as you age. Though you might not need it now, it is a good idea to give someone who you trust permission to discuss your financial matters with creditors or to speak with the Social Security or Medicare agencies.

There are devices that will remind you when it is time to take your medicine if you forget to take it. Special pill boxes can arrange your pills for the entire week. Just recently discharged from the hospital and need short-term nursing care at home? You can seek assistance from the hospital discharge planner, and Medicare may cover home health care services.

To make sure you follow doctor’s orders properly, it is a good idea to bring someone with you, or you can ask the doctor to put all recommendations in writing if you are alone.

Common concerns about aging in place

Despite your desire to stay at home, you may still have concerns about safety, transportation, or other day-to-day activities. Below are some suggestions to alleviate some of these concerns. 

Getting Around: You may need a walker at home and in town. If you need more, you may want to consider getting an electric chair or scooter. Medicare might cover them. Do you need someone to go to the doctor or shop with you? You can request volunteer escorting services. If you don’t have a car, inquire about public transportation and taxis near you. Perhaps a family member, friend, or neighbor is willing to drive you when they run errands or do yours. The Eldercare Locator can help you find resources in your community by calling 800-677-1116 (toll-free) or viewing https://eldercare.acl.gov.

Finding activities and friends: If you’re bored at home, you can find a variety of activities at your local senior center. You may run into friends and make new ones. Is it difficult to leave your home? If you are interested in volunteering in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. They might be able to stop by or call once a week to just keep you company. If you need any assistance, they can discuss any problems you’re experiencing.

Safety Concerns: Talk to the staff at your local Area Agency on Aging if you’re concerned about crime in your neighborhood, abuse, or losing money in a scam. If you’re living alone, are you worried about becoming ill without anyone to care for you? Getting an emergency alert system is a good idea. All you have to do is press a button and emergency medical personnel are called. It usually costs a monthly fee for the service.

Housing Concerns: If you make a few changes to your home, would it be easier and safer to live there? You might consider adding a ramp at the front door, grab bars, nonskid floors, better insulation, and more comfortable handles. Consider getting help from the local Agency on Aging, state housing finance agency, welfare department, community development group, or federal government. 

Getting Help During The Day: There are times when adults who need help taking care of themselves live with someone who is not able to stay with them during the day. For example, perhaps they work. Adult day care outside the home may be available for older adults who need support. A day care center can pick you up and bring you home. If your caretaker needs to go away overnight, there are respite care services available.

Resources to help you age in place

Reach Out To People You Know: Often, the most reliable source of help comes from family, friends, and neighbors. If you are physically able, consider trading services with a neighbor or friend. One might shop for groceries, and the other might prepare dinner for example. 

Learn About Community and Local Government Resources: Your health care provider and social worker may be able to help you find local services. Your Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging or social services, and your tribal organization may also have listings. If you belong to a religious group, contact the clergy or check with the local office for services for seniors.

Speak With A Geriatric Manger: A geriatric care manager can help you to find services to make your everyday life easier. They may also help you create a long-term care plan and identify the resources you need. Geriatric care managers are helpful when family members live far apart. 

How much does aging in place cost?

When planning for the help you will need, it’s important to consider how you will pay for it. Some things may cost a lot. Others may be free. Some may be covered by Medicare or another insurance plan. Others may not. Talk to your insurance company. It may be less expensive to pay for a few services out of pocket than to move into an independent living, assisted living, or long-term care facility. And you can continue living on your own. You can find information about possible benefits by visiting Benefits.gov and BenefitsCheckUp®.

If you are eligible for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they sometimes provide care at home. In some areas, they also offer adult day health care and hospice services. For more information, visit www.va.gov, call 877-222-8387 (toll-free), or contact the VA medical center nearest you.

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