As more of the American population reaches their 70s and beyond, they are attracted by the concept of aging in place.
Unfortunately, many older adults and their families are being confronted by the harsh reality that growing older is increasingly expensive. Costs across the board are going up, including healthcare, housing, medication, transportation, and so on. In addition, though long-term care insurance can help to ease some of the financial burden, this option doesn’t necessarily cover as much as people might think. That may change over time, but our older population is already showing signs of struggle.
Aging in place may limit some of an elder’s out of pocket expenses and may provide more comfort to them. It’s attractive to many because it means the elder can stay in the home they’ve lived in and loved for many years. It can help to defray expenses, especially if the mortgage is already completely paid. If the home has enough space, it may be possible to hire a live-in to help.
However, aging in place brings with it a unique set of challenges as well. Often our homes aren’t designed for an elderly person. For example, cabinets might be too high for someone in a wheelchair, light switches can be difficult for arthritic fingers to grasp and use, carpets and rugs can be trip hazards, stairs may be impossible to climb, and bathtubs or showers may be impossible to enter because of an inability to step over the side.
What You Need to Know
Number one: you are not alone. This is a challenge presented to many older adults and their families. Often you may feel overwhelmed as you try to anticipate the needs of an older family member and how to adjust the house to fit the need.
Number two: If you are the family member assisting an older adult, make sure you talk to your loved one about what they want to do and what they’re finding challenging. This may be difficult, as your loved one may not want to admit to having difficulties with tasks that were once easy. You may have to read up on common issues older adults experience in the home, such as low lighting, stairways, and grasping knobs or switches, and present these items to your loved one during the conversation. Conversely, if you are the older adult talking to family about your experiences, you may want to bring up the topic when you’re ready and make sure they understand that you want to stay in your home but need to have modifications made. It may help to create a list with them and to show them what you feel needs to be fixed.
Number three: If you’ve reached this stage and haven’t created a will, power of attorney, or any other estate planning document, please do so. It is never too soon to create a medical directive or living will, but it can become too late. Don’t hesitate to update old, out-dated, estate planning documents or to create one for the first time. This way your family members know what’s expected for your medical care and what your wishes are, all adding to your peace of mind.
There is a growing number of resources available to older adults and their families, both nationally and locally. Here is a very brief list of resources with more information:
Montgomery County Dept. of Health and Human Services – The department maintains a list of local resources for seniors in a variety of fields, including healthcare, mental health, caregiver support, financial assistance, and more. Website: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/hhs/programindex/seniorservicesindex.html
Montgomery County Senior Site – A site run by the county government and full of valuable resources and information, including events, transportation, elder care, and much more. Website: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/senior/
National Institute on Aging – The NIA has an article covering the common concerns around aging in place as well as where to look for more information. Website: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-older-home
Eldercare Locator – The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living. Their website provides resources for home improvement assistance, including what items may need to be remodeled and how to find a qualified contractor. Website: https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Resources/Factsheets/Home_Modifications.aspx