One of the most important objectives of most seniors is to be able to maintain a degree of independence for as long as possible.
As a senior, I want to be able to live in my own home, and enjoy the freedom that comes with good health and a sound body.
As long as I can take care of myself, I don’t need (or want) the services of others. Often I hear married couples say, “We’ve been able to get along just fine all these years, and there’s no reason to think we’re in need of any special help now.”
But I would caution that such an attitude may be very risky, and one that often leads to unintended consequences.
The fact is seniors want to stay at home so much that a term has been coined for this purpose: “aging in place.” The “place” is familiar, full of memories, full of “things” a symbol of “success” and a reminder of the years of challenge that faced the baby-boomer generation.
Being able to stay in “that place” is emotionally and physically important to both the parents and the children, and it reinforces the bonds that tie a family together.
So, how do we come to terms with this when there are “other places” they could be?
Assuming the home is safe, I would like to suggest the following considerations for keeping seniors at home.
First, and perhaps most important, is the additional involvement of the children or other relatives.
Sometimes this means assisting with bills, doing grocery shopping, picking up on laundry chores, making meals, or doing some cleaning. That is, assisting with the activities of daily living (ADL).
By the way, this is a phrase that will become very important to you as you take this journey for yourself, or with your parents or loved ones.
Most often this involvement with ADLs happens when a child or relative is visiting and notices a “past due” notice for a monthly bill, or goes to the refrigerator and notices spoiled food, or goes to use the bathroom and notices an odor from an unclean toilet or soiled laundry.
Because of the concern, the child or relative will start coming over more often and performing tasks. The problem, however, is that the more this happens the quality of the visits begin to degenerate, frustration on both parties starts to build, and balance in the life of the child or relative soon diminishes.
The second way to keep seniors at home is hiring a home care company. This can be a difficult step for seniors because a “stranger” will be coming into their home. However, home care companies report that this concern is quickly overcome within an hour after the first caregiver arrives.
Frankly, I believe this is because people who choose to do home care usually have pretty big hearts, and are trained to work WITH rather than FOR seniors, and to listen to how the senior wants things done.
By the way — it’s important to understand the difference between home care and home health companies.
Home care is non-medical.
So, for example, when a home care company sends a caregiver to a client’s home they are there to help with those activities of daily living such as: Meal planning and preparation, cleaning, laundry, medication, transportation, errands, grooming, dressing and bath assistance, etc.
A home health company will do wound care, dispense medications, assist with catheters or colostomy care, etc.
Although home care is typically private pay for services, and is not covered by Medicare, many long term care insurance policies will pay for these services.
What is generally required is that a doctor certifies that at least two ADLs cannot be performed independently.
Finally, there are also the innovations in technology that can be used to keep seniors in their home and safer at the same time, which is something I want to address in more depth in my next column.