Most elderly parents will say that they want to spend the rest of their lives in their own home and age in place versus moving to an assisted living facility, senior living community, long-term care, or nursing home.
But their adult children and family members may be wondering how to make this happen.
In order for an older parent to continue growing older at home for as long as possible, they must:
- Make the home as senior-friendly as they can
- Take advantage of assistive devices and technology
- Use home delivery services
- Take advantage of transportation services
- Explore available options when more help and care services are needed
- Share caregiving duties
Depending on their health issues and medical conditions, aging in the home can be done independently or with a personal care provider to help.
Regardless, growing older at home isn’t something that happens easily – unless seniors and their adult children think ahead and plan for it.
Keep reading to find out what to modify in the home and which services to start investigating.
In all, 88% of people between the ages of 50 and 80 said it was very or somewhat important to them that they live in their homes as long as possible. But only 15% said they’ve given a lot of consideration to how their home may need to be modified as they age, while 47% have given it little or no thought.University of Michigan
Wishing to continue living at home and preparing for it are clearly two very different things. We urge all seniors and family members to take the steps necessary to achieve this goal.
What Do Seniors Need To Stay In Their Homes?
Following the 6 tips we set out in the prior section will give your elderly family members living at home the independence they desire. They will also give you the peace of mind of knowing that they will be as safe as possible.
After all, no caregiver wants to get that dreaded phone call that something happened to their aging parent.
There are several factors at play here. One is the emotional toll of leaving home. Homesick seniors are at higher risk of stress and depression, both of which accelerate physical and cognitive declineVisitingangels.com
Clearly, it’s important and in the senior’s best interest to stay in the family home as long as possible.
But if taking care of an older person is too difficult or you just don’t have the time or the support system to help you, I would encourage you to contact a geriatric care manager.
They can review all the care options available in your community.
Geriatric care managers can give you the information you need on how to care for elderly parents in their home throughout the aging process.
You can also check with your local Area Agency on Aging for information on who you can contact for specific services.
It is up to you to objectively look at their situation, be realistic about the implications of what you find and take proactive steps to work with your loved one to ensure their wellbeing.Agingcare.com
1. Make The House As Senior Friendly As Possible
As an adult child, the first step in taking care of parents in their old age is to do your best to put their safety concerns first. Working on a long-term care plan to ensure that home safety is a priority.
This can seem like a daunting task but if you take it step by step (like I’m going to show you in just a minute) it won’t be so overwhelming.
Of course, the amount of work that needs to be done to accomplish this task depends on two things:
- The condition of the current house they live in
- The specific physical limitations and/or cognitive (memory loss) care needs of your elderly parent(s)
So, here are 6 steps on how to make their living environment as safe as possible:
Fall Proof The House For Your Aging Parents
Many older adults lose their balance easily so fall-proofing the home environment is extremely important.
This includes decluttering the rooms and spaces they use, removing throw rugs, modifying indoor and outdoor steps, installing grab bars and adaptive equipment, and using technology such as fall alert devices, Alexa, and/or a medical alert product.
Also, make sure your elderly parents are wearing the proper footwear to help them avoid slips, trips, and falls. (i.e. rubber-soled shoes with a secure back heel that fit properly).
Falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors in the United States.TheKey.com
Following these fall prevention tips will go a long way in helping you with taking care of elderly parents.
Get As Much Light Into The House As Possible
It’s fairly common knowledge that the older you get, your eyesight starts to decline.
This is because muscles controlling the pupil size and light responsiveness start getting weaker as we age.
As a result, people in their 60s need three times more ambient lighting for comfortable reading than those in their 20s!
So, for seniors living at home, you’ll want to increase the amount of natural light in the house during the daytime.
You can do this by raising the window shades or opening blinds and curtains (note – there are remote-controlled options available if your elderly parent is not able to do this themselves).
At night, it’s important to ensure that your parent’s home has plenty of lamps or lighting fixtures in every room that your senior loved one frequents.
They should keep a flashlight by their bedside for middle of the night bathroom visits and should also keep one by the sofa or other seating area where they spend a lot of time.
That way, if the power goes out, your aging parents won’t be fumbling around in the dark to try to find one.
They may state that they don’t need all this lighting – but decreased vision is extremely common in older adults – they may just not notice it.
If you find that you need some tips on how to handle your aging parents – check out our article on What To Do When Elderly Parents Won’t Listen.
Be Aware Of And Compensate For Any Cognitive Problems
Oftentimes elderly people and their caregiving family members are not aware of (or are in denial of) issues with cognitive decline.
Long-distance caregivers may not notice a decline if they can’t see their parents via video phone calls.
I recommend asking your doctor for a professional assessment to find out If dementia care is necessary.
There are things that you can do to make the home safer for an elderly parent who may be living with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Click here to read our article on What Are Some Things To Do For Seniors With Memory Problems.
Prepare For Emergency Situations
In 2015, older adults: Represented 15 percent of the United States population but suffered 40 percent of all fire deaths.BeechMountainvfd.org
Have a plan on what to do in case of a fire (and rehearse it regularly). Install smoke alarms (and carbon monoxide alarms). Have fire extinguishers (or fire blankets) where they would be most needed. Install stove shut-off devices.
All of these can help to reduce the chances of a fire and/or help your parents survive one.
Be Aware Of Local Medical Care
Another important but often overlooked tip in elder care is knowing the details when it comes to a parent’s health problems.
It’s a good idea to draw up a comprehensive list of where the local hospitals are, where urgent care centers are, and of course, all the physicians that your parent(s) are using.
Have your parents designate you as someone who can discuss their diagnosis, medication, etc., with all of their health professionals.
You also may want to be proactive and set up a video chat with your parent(s) primary physician.
Install An Easy To Use Home Security System
A safety tip for keeping the elderly in their own homes safely is to install an electronic home security system.
These types of devices and programs are today’s best option for protecting the home from outside intruders.
I can recommend the SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security system. Once it’s installed, it’s very easy to use which is a big plus for seniors.
I would also recommend contacting an Occupational Therapist or Senior Home Safety Specialists to do an assessment of the safety modifications that need to be done to the house.
2. Assistive Devices and Technology For Elderly Parents
There are many options available today for the elderly at home and their care providers.
These range from personal assistive devices like medical alert products to technology like video cameras and Alexa devices that can make the home safer and personal care matters easier to manage.
This includes everything from monitoring systems, and medication reminders to medical alert devices to grab bars to products to help with daily living activities to meeting healthcare needs via virtual doctor appointments and so much more.
The list of products that can help you take care of your elderly loved ones seems to be endless and growing every day!
Independent living for seniors has never been easier to achieve!
3. Use Home Delivery Services
If you are taking care of the elderly at home then you know that time is precious. So, why not take advantage of all the wonderful home delivery services that are available these days?
It seems that you can get just about anything and everything delivered directly to your home.
Anything from furniture to cars, groceries, fully prepared meals, clothing, medication and so much more!
Some of the more common home delivery services suitable for older people include:
Meals On Wheels
Almost everyone has heard of the Meals On Wheels program. It’s a wonderful service helping the elderly in their homes to get meals delivered.
Anyone who is 60 or older who is unable to get to the grocery store and cook their meals qualifies for Meals on Wheels, as well as their caregiver.
Specialty Meal Preparation Delivery Services
There are also many other programs available that deliver prepared healthy meals to seniors. Programs that cater to specific diets such as Diet-to-Go.
If you are caregiving, you know what a great time saver this can be!
Don’t be shy about using services that can help you. Family caregivers need to ask for help taking care of their elderly parents – no one person should do it alone.
And older adults need to also acknowledge when they may need some help as well.
For older adults who continue to cook but find it difficult to grocery shop – meal kits are a wonderful concept.
Everything you need to create a specific meal (including the recipe) is delivered to you.
Another service that I have been using for a few months (and loving it) is Misfits Market. They deliver fresh, organic produce (and more) to your door. As they say on their website…
Every box of Misfits produce you order benefits farmers, helps prevent food waste, and ultimately helps save our environment. Our rapidly expanding Philadelphia- and New Jersey-based operation rescues produce from regional farms and distributes it throughout the Northeast, South, and Midwest in three business days or less.
It seems that everyone is shopping at Amazon these days.
I personally purchase many of my everyday items from them. Things like paper towels, toilet paper, cat food, vitamins, toiletries, and much more.
The best thing about Amazon besides their quick delivery is the subscription service. Sign up to get items ordered on a schedule and you’ll never have to think about it again!
Tip: The more products you add to your subscription list, the more you save!
Get Your Medications Delivered
Both Walgreens and CVS now deliver medications to your home.
And there’s a new service available from Amazon, called Pill Pack, that not only delivers your prescriptions right to your door but also puts the medications in small packets. Each packet holds the pills that should be taken in that dosage.
For example, if you take two medications in the morning on a Monday, they are combined into one packet that is labeled “Monday, 8:00 a.m.”
It’s a wonderful concept that will make taking prescriptions easier for those who have too many pills to remember.
The Pill Pack system may be much easier for some older adults than using pill dispenser boxes.
4. Take Advantage Of Transportation Services Aimed At Older Adults
If you are caring for your elderly parents your caregiving tasks may also include transporting your aging parents.
There are multiple options for transportation services these days. Most everyone knows about Uber and Lyft ridesharing services, but many don’t know about the services they provide specifically for seniors.
Today, 36% of U.S. adults say they have ever used a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in fall 2018.Pewresearch.org
Uber’s senior program is called Uber Central – which, according to their website allows seniors, senior centers, friends and family members to request/schedule Uber rides for an elderly loved one.
With, or without a smartphone. Check out our information on Uber For Seniors Without Smartphones.
Lyft works with GreatCall, a Jitterbug medical alert and phone company, to offer a rideshare service for seniors.
They don’t even have to use the app to schedule a ride. Instead, they can go on their GreatCall phone, type zero, and an operator will schedule the Lyft.
They offer several types of rides for their passengers:
- Standard = $3.50 minimum
- Lyft Plus = $4.70 minimum
- Lyft Premium = $10.00 minimum
Free Transportation For Seniors
Lyft, the nationwide rideshare service has teamed up with a number of providers to offer both free and low-cost rides to senior citizens.
Yes – there are sources for free rides. Local transportation authorities in jurisdictions around the nation, app platforms like Lyft, Dial-A-Ride, and many other programs and volunteer services offer free rides for senior citizens.
We wrote an article on Where Can Senior Citizens Get Free Rides – check it out. There is a lot of good information there about that topic.
Your local Area Agency on Aging may also have information specific to your area on free transportation services.
5. Hiring Home Help For Elderly Parents
If you are blessed enough to have parents that will accept outside help for personal care, daily tasks, yard work, and home maintenance then take advantage of it because it will be worth every penny.
When a senior needs extra help, it can be tricky because, after all, it depends on the person(s) that you end up hiring.
Also, the type of home care help that you will be hiring depends greatly on how much help elderly parents need.
So, let’s break it down:
- If all your parent(s) need is help with household chores then a weekly maid service may be the best option for you at the moment.
- If they need help with personal care such as daily living tasks of showering, dressing, taking medication, etc. then home health care services or just home health aides would work for you. These types of aides can be wonderful at caring for the elderly in their own home.
- If they need 24-hour (or any number of hours) supervision throughout the day or night – then a full-time or part-time in-home care service would be the best. Medicare may cover some of these costs.
You can look at agencies such as Care.com, and local home care agencies or you can search for a freelance person to hire for the job.
You can also contact your local Area Agency on Aging for information on other sources of where to find an aide.
Medicaid helps people with a low income and few assets pay for nursing facilities and some assisted living and in-home care.aarp.org
I personally would recommend that you ask the home care agency if they can provide one person for all the visits.
For many seniors, learning to trust someone in their home (or your home) is very difficult so keeping one person at all times is more beneficial for everyone.
Find out what you should look for when hiring outside help in our article, What To Look For In A Home Care Aide.
All of these caregiving services would also be very helpful for anyone looking for information on how to get help for the elderly living alone.
6. Sharing Caregiving Duties With Family And Close Friends
Caring for elderly parents at home can be very difficult so I encourage the adult children of aging parents to ask for family support as well as asking for assistance from close friends, your local church, etc.
Having a support system to help with aging parent problems is extremely important.
There are also many local agencies and government programs like the AACCW that provide respite care – whether it’s temporary or long-term term so give them a call to find out what help they can provide you in caring for your elderly parents.
When you do receive help, be grateful, and make them feel appreciated. Truth is, most people want to help – they just don’t know how.
And you may not know how either, at first, so I recommend you break down all the tasks that you do for your elderly parent(s) as if they are a long list of chores.
Delegate some of these chores to whoever is willing to help you.
It can be as simple as that – but you have to ask.
But it’s important to remember that senior care is one of the toughest and most stressful jobs you’ll ever have.Dailycaring.com
If you are reluctant to talk to siblings or family members about helping with your senior care duties, we have some great tips to help you in our article, How To Talk To Siblings About Aging Parents – A Step By Step Guide.
Staying home is, of course, more desirable for many aging adults but it’s important to acknowledge whether it’s the most practical and/or safe thing to do.
A long-term care facility may not be something that your parent(s) want to do but it may be the most logical solution.
But also know that there are many other different types of senior living communities now and those should be reviewed and discussed.
All in all – helping an elderly person to stay and age in place in their own home can be a beautiful way to age – as long as it is safe!