Betsy Wadland: Seniors want to age at home, not in a facility
"Will you still need me ... when I'm 64?" Paul McCartney wanted to know. How about 65 or 75? 85?
For people in the later years of life, where to live is a big question.
According to seniorresource.com, "some 70 percent of seniors spend the rest of their life in the place where they celebrated their 65th birthday."
If that's the case, how do we make sure that place is safe? What needs to be done to your physical space to allow you to live there as your needs change? What support might you need?
It's called aging in place, and what it really means is staying home. According to an AARP survey, 80 percent of seniors do not want to leave the place they have called home oftentimes for many decades as they enter the later part of their life.
Instead, seniors want to be in familiar surroundings and not a medical facility. With the right planning and with the right supports in place, many people are able to stay where they want to be as they age.
The benefits of aging in place can be tremendous. The sense of control over your own life, independence and proximity to family and friends are just a few.
However, physical changes are a fact of life. Hearing impairments, failing vision, osteoporosis, mental process changes, decreased mobility, strength and stamina, along with a change in how the brain processes information, must all be factored into the equation.
“People are often hesitant about making changes to their homes,” said Susan Nazarko, a registered nurse and director of clinical services at New Century Homecare Services in Natick, Mass. “They don't like the institutional look of grab bars, they think their home won't look as cozy if they de-clutter and pull up scatter rugs, and they don't want to wear an emergency response device. But these are some of the small changes that make a home livable."
In addition to upgrading the physical space, people should think about community help and services that are available. For example, gardening, home maintenance and housework.
Also think about shopping, transportation to doctors' appointments, meal preparation, personal care and an emergency response system? These are all areas that seniorresource.com recommends people think about when discussing living arrangements.
"It's a lot easier to research and set up services before you need them, rather than waiting until it's an emergency," said Nazarko. "In addition to medical in-home care you may need from time to time, there are a huge number of non-medical services out there. Finding the right fit is essential.
“When you're talking to an agency, be sure to find out the full range of services they offer, how you will be billed, the depth and breadth of services and an agency's back-up plan. What is their reputation, and who are they affiliated with? Is what they offer going to work for you? It's all about making things work for you and your life,” said Nazarko.
Making some adjustments, lining up community support and some paid services can make it possible to age in place, staying in the home you love well past when you're 64.
Betsy Wadland is director of development for the Natick VNA, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout MetroWest each year. For more information, call the VNA at 508-653-3081.