And these services don’t come cheap.
Even individuals with a substantial nest egg to cover their long term care needs might be surprised at how quickly their money disappears when they move into a long term care facility.
As of 2016, a private room in a nursing home cost an average annual amount of $92,000.
A shared room isn’t much better at $82,000.
Multiply that figure by the average amount of time spent in a nursing home (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years) and you can see the better financial option is to receive care at home.
But finances shouldn’t be the sole reason to opt for aging in place.
If your parents want to stay in their home as they grow older it will require a bit of advanced planning. And perhaps some modifications to their home. But it’s entirely possible for them to enjoy the rest of their lives right where they are.
Benefits of aging in place
A skilled nursing facility has many residents with a wide variety of health issues and levels of care needed.
Often, these facilities are overcrowded, putting limits on the level of care and attention that an already overworked staff can provide.
And with so many individuals living in confined quarters it’s not surprising that disease and sickness can set in, taking advantage of an immune system that’s already weakened by age.
In short, aging in place is a healthier option.
Independence, at least on some level, is vital to maintaining emotional and mental health.
When seniors are placed in a nursing home their choices are severely limited, leading to depression and ultimately a decline in their health status.
Barring any serious medical issues requiring hospitalization, helping your parents to stay in their home is always a better option because the more independence your parents are able to enjoy, the better it will be for both you and them.
It’s natural for us to make a connection with our homes and the community we live in, so when a change is suddenly thrust upon us, it can be very stressful and jarring.
When your parents can stay in their home, their normal routines aren’t disrupted as they would be in a facility. They can rise when they want, eat what they’d like and spend time doing what they want to do from the comfort of their own home.
While your parents likely enjoy the companionship of other older adults, they no doubt love to spend time with you and their grandkids.
While families are allowed to visit, skilled nursing facilities have regulations and rules which might put a damper on being able to visit for as long as you’d like.
By helping your parents to stay in their home they can stay connected to both their neighbors, the community and their family.
How to prepare
While staying at home and aging in place is a fantastic idea, you may need to make some changes to your parents’ home, and/or your own schedule, to make it work.
As falls are among the most common injuries of older adults, it’s important to make any needed modifications to your parents’ home to prevent them from falling.
Outside of the home
Repair any uneven pavement and remove any debris that could become a hazard. Pathways should be clear and accessible with plenty of adequate lighting and shrubberies that could hide a potential burglar should be removed.
An ideal entry into the home would be one without stairs and/or with a ramp to provide easy access. Install motion-activated lights in key locations to aid your parents’ entry and to ward off intruders.
Make sure everything is within easy reach to avoid the need to bend down or to use a step stool. Replace any throw rugs with non-slip rugs and adjust the hot water – if necessary – to avoid potential scalding.
Other living spaces
Remove any clutter to make sure that your parents have a clear path to any part of the house they want to go to. Ensure that lighting is sufficient and consider adding a motion sensor for key lighting needs such as the bathroom, kitchen and living room.
If getting up is difficult for your parents, consider investing in a lift chair to avoid any strain or injury and make sure all wanted items (e.g. books, crafts, remotes, etc.) are within easy reach.
The bathroom can be a very hazardous place for anyone, not just older individuals. That’s why it’s the primary place so many individuals focus on when preparing to age in place.
There are a variety of options available to make bathrooms more “user friendly” for elderly individuals such as “walk-in” bathtubs, raised toilet seats and plenty of grab bars and non-slip bath mats to prevent slips and falls.
When your parents can’t reach the phone after being injured it can be a frightening experience. A personal emergency response system that can alert emergency responders in the event of an emergency can bring peace of mind to both you and your parents.
These devices are either worn on the body (e.g. a pendant, wristband or belt clip) or are located on a console in the home.
Also, as part of your planning, consider the possibility that one or more of your parents might face mobility issues as they age. You can address any changes now such as the need for wider doorways and lower countertops to accommodate a wheelchair, rather than dealing with them later during an already stressful time.
Should you consult an aging in place specialist?
Created by the NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders, in cooperation with Home Innovation Research Labs, NAHB 50+ Housing Council and the AARP, a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) is defined as “those [individuals who] have been trained to help seniors and older adults live in their homes safely as they age.”
If you and your parents feel that you would benefit from getting assistance with any modifications to their home, a certified aging in place specialist would be a good individual to consult with.
Finally, the sooner you discuss the available options to help your parents age in place, the more easy it will be to make the changes.