It’s no secret that as we all grow older, making changes can be very difficult – physically and emotionally. So, aging in place in your own home is something that a majority of seniors wish to do.
There are 5 great ways that you can help your aging parents stay in their home:
- Make the home as senior friendly as possible
- Take advantage of technology
- Use home delivery services
- Take advantage of transportation services
- Explore available options when more help is needed
Once elders are uprooted from their own homes a cascade of serious problems can occur, including social isolation. So it is not surprising that the majority of individuals want to stay in a home filled with a lifetime of memories, surrounded by familiar objects, routine and community. – Southwestjournal.com
Make The Home As Senior Friendly As Possible
The first step to helping keep your elderly parents in their home is to make the house they live in as safe as possible.
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 / cognitive condition of your parent(s)
So, here are some steps on how to make their living environment as safe as possible:
- Fall proof the home – 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, making sure your elderly parents are wearing the proper footwear to help them avoid slips, trips and falling. (i.e rubber soled shoes with a secure back heel that fit properly)
- Get as much light into the home as possible – during the day, increase natural light by raising the window shades or opening blinds and curtains (note – there are remote controlled options available if the senior is not able to do this themselves). At night, ensure there are plenty of lamps or lighting fixtures in every room that the senior frequents. They should keep a flashlight by their beside 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, the elder won’t be fumbling around in the dark to try to find one.
- Be aware of and compensate for any cognitive / memory problems – oftentimes parents and their family members are not aware (or in denial) of issues with cognitive decline. I recommend asking your doctor for a professional assessment. If there are issues with memory – there are things that you can do to make the home safer. Click here to read my article on What Are Some Things To Do For Seniors With Memory Problems.
- Have a fire safety plan and the proper equipment in the home – in 2015 40% of residential fires involved seniors. Having a plan on what to do in case of a fire (and rehearsing it regularly), installing smoke alarms (and carbon monoxide alarms), having fire extinguishers (or fire blankets) where they would be most needed and installing stove shut off devices can all help to reduce the chances of a fire and/or help your parent(s) to survive one.
- Installing a home security system your parent(s) can use – an electronic home security system is 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.
- Use assistive devices as needed and where they are needed – most seniors and caregivers wait until they HAVE to purchase some type of assistive device but I strongly recommend to be proactive and start using equipment (such as the ones I list below) as soon as possible. Here is a list of some of the products I recommended in this article and related articles:
- Grab bars
- Toilet seats for seniors
- Behind the door shelf unit
- Non slip rugs and mats
- Walk in tubs
- Hand held shower heads
- Senior friendly faucet handles
- Portable Showers
- Plug in lights
- Battery powered lights
- Anti slip flooring products
- Lift chairs
- Tools to help you stand up
- Adjustable height beds
- Bed safety products
- Alexa Devices
- Google Home Devices
Take Advantage Of Technology
These days, we are so very fortunate to be able to take advantage of all the wonderful technology that can help to make life easier, and safer for seniors living at home.
Here are some wonderful gadgets that we recommend for seniors to help them remain safely in their home as they age.
Stove Alarms – The most budget-friendly stove alarm model for a gas stove that you can just plug in and walk away from is the Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm. It plugs into any standard outlet and detects natural gas, propane gas, and carbon monoxide.
High Tech Stove Alarm – I’m impressed with iGuardStove. It has a built in motion detector and will shut off the gas after no motion has been detected for 5 minutes. For your peace of mind, it will send an alert to your smartphone. It also has a secret lock that allows a caregiver to lock the stove. The upgraded version also offers gas leak detection. NOTE: you’ll need a certified plumber to install
Stovetop Fire Suppressor – A simple device for fire suppression on an electric stove is the StoveTop FireStop. It’s basically designed to put out grease fires and automatically deploys when it comes in contact with flames. Mounted by magnets to the underside of the range hood, StoveTop FireStop gives you invisible peace-of-mind.)
Seat Belt Buckle Holders – Something as simple as buckling your seat belt in the car can become difficult for an older adult, especially if they suffer from arthritis in their hands. A gadget like the Wididi Buckle Up is a great tool to fix that!
Gas Cap Remover – For anyone who suffers from arthritis in their hands – they know how difficult it can be to turn a gas cap to fill up your car. Well – this little Freedom Gas Cap Wrench is a great stocking stuffer that will be appreciated and used often!
Flexible Shower Head – A shower head that has a grip on it (easier for your senior loved one to handle) like this one from Yoo.Mee (I know – it’s a funny name). It’s an inexpensive solution that may work for your elderly person.
Grab Bars – It used to be that grab bars were designated for bathrooms only. But today’s homes built for senior living – grab bars can be installed throughout the house. Hallways, living rooms, garages, anywhere there is just one or two steps to enter / exit a room. Read About The Different Types Of Grab Bars Available
Toilet Seats – There are several different ways that you can make it easier to get up and down from a toilet seat (which are usually too low for many older adults). You can purchase a brand new toilet that is taller (yes, they make these) or you can add a device to the existing toilet to make the seat higher.
We recommend several devices on our page about toilet seats – click here. But if you really want to go high tech – you can look into the Neptune Toilet Lift which lowers and raises the user onto the toilet – very much like a lift chair.
Lights – In my experience, there can never be enough lights in seniors’ homes. Most of my patients would keep their homes dark because the light hurt their eyes and/or they wanted to save money on electricity. Neither reason is a good one when the consequences could possibly be a fall that could result in severe injury or death.
You can use plug in lights or battery powered lights. I like to use a combination of both because there can never be too many lights! Place them everywhere, but especially in those areas that are used at night time. For example, the path from the bed to the bathroom, the pathway to and from the kitchen, etc.
For those seniors who say that too much light hurts their eyes, consider using “warm light” bulbs like these LED ones. Just remember that they may not be as bright as other types of light bulbs so you may have to incorporate additional lighting.
Barrier Free – Many homes, especially older homes have barriers that only become evident when someone gets older. Things like showers that you have to step into (or showers in bathtubs), doorway thresholds (which can be difficult if using a walker or wheelchair), steps to enter a room (remember those sunken living rooms?). These can all make it more difficult than necessary to ambulate throughout the home.
For showers it’s recommended to remove the tiles to step over but of course this requires some home construction. You can instead use transfer benches and shower chairs (depending on the structure of your shower).
Use Home Delivery Services
Along with the wonderful technology available today, the next amazing thing available for seniors is the plethora of home delivery services.
It seems that you can get just about anything and everything delivered directly to your home. Anything from furniture to cars, groceries and fully prepared meals, clothing and medication and so much more!
Some of the more common home delivery services suitable for seniors include:
- Meals on Wheels – almost everyone has heard of this wonderful program. Anyone who is 60 or older who is unable to shop and cook their meals qualifies for Meals on Wheels, as well as their caregiver.
- Specialty Meal Delivery Services – there are many programs available that deliver prepared meals to seniors. Programs that cater to specific diets such as Silver Cuisine and Diet-to-Go.
- Meal Kits – for older adults who continue to cook – meal kits are a wonderful concept. Everything you need to create a specific meal (including the recipe) is delivered to you. Programs such as: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are two of the most popular but there are many more available. Check your local area for these types of services.
- Amazon – 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 again! (And 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 many to remember.
Take Advantage Of Transportation Services
There are multiple options for transportation services these days. Most everyone knows about Uber and Lyft ridesharing services, but many don’t know about their services 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 program is called Uber Central – which, according to their website allows seniors, senior centers, friends and family members to request / schedule Uber rides for the 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.
Explore Available Options When More Help Is Needed
There may come a time that your parents will need more help or hands on help and you and your family (or siblings) may have to get together to make the decision on how to get the help your parents need. You have a few options:
- You move in with your parents into their home.
- They move in with you into your home.
- You hire in help in the form in home senior care or maid service once a week. Whatever will help them.
- You share the caregiving duties with family and/or friends.
Moving In With Elderly Parents
Moving in with your parent to care for them is a very big decision for anyone. Although you may benefit financially (if you don’t keep your own home) it’s still a very stressful situation. To make the daily living situation easier, I recommend the following:
- Take care of your parent (of course) but take care of yourself as well. That means, hire caregivers to give you breaks throughout the day or week. If you are fortunate enough to have family and/or friends who can do this for you, then take advantage of it. It does no one any good if you become mentally and physically exhausted.
- Keep to a schedule. This is good not only for most seniors, but it will keep you organized and in control as much as you can possibly be.
- Focus on the positives in your life and be grateful for the good things. When I was caring for my mother – there were moments where I could not see an end to the situation. I literally walked outside of the house many times and just sat in the front yard trying to get my mindset out of the negative zone. It’s going to be difficult, but you will survive it.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help. In fact, ask for help as much as possible. Use as many resources as you can because now is the time to do it.
- Keep up your health by eating right, exercising, meditating – whatever it is that you need to do to keep your health at optimal level.
Should Your Aging Parent(s) Move In With You?
Factors like the condition of your parents’ home, location, financial situations and your own (as the caregiver) obligations to job and community will make the decision for you as to whether or not your aging parent(s) should move in with you instead of you moving in with them.
If the decision is for your elderly parent(s) to move in with you – I recommend many of the same that I stated just above.
The one difference here is that you need to now make your home as senior proof as possible to accommodate your parents’ needs. The main issues to address here would be:
- fall proofing
- techniques to compensate for memory problems
- fire safety
- home security
- methods and tools to make daily tasks as easy and safe as possible and
- use of assistive devices to compensate for any issues such as poor strength, vision and hearing problems
You can read more details in our article Senior Proofing Your Home. It’s filled with great information on how to best set up your home environment for your senior loved ones.
Hiring Help For Elderly Parents
My mother was vehemently against having anyone come into her home to help her. It was many months of arguing and we never won.
If you are blessed enough to have parents that will accept this type of help, take advantage of it because it will be worth every penny.
The type of in home help that you will be hiring depends greatly on what your parents need. So, let’s break it down:
- If all your parent(s) need is help with household chores than a weekly maid service may be the best option for you at the moment.
- If they need help with daily living tasks such as showering, dressing, taking medication, etc. then home health care services would work for you.
- 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.
You can look at agencies such as Care.com, local home care agencies or you can search for an individual to hire for the job.
I personally would recommend hiring an individual over an agency simply because most agencies will send multiple people to the home. 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. Check with the home care agency to find out if they can provide one person throughout the time that they would be needed.
Find out what you should look for when hiring outside help in our article, What To Look For In A Home Care Aide.
Sharing Caregiving Duties With Family And Friends
I have a wonderful friend who is in the beginning stages of caring for her elderly parents. She has two brothers, one who lives nearby and another who lives in another state. But the majority of the caregiving duties fall on my friend and her husband.
Needless to say, we have had many conversations where she expresses how frustrated she is at the fact that her brothers are not stepping in to help. My advice is always the same: “Speak to your brothers NOW before you build up resentment. Let them know how you feel, what you are doing and give them options on how they can help.”
The truth is, the majority of caregivers are (and most likely will always be) women. But it doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t ask for help. Seek assistance from family members, friends, your church, etc.
When you do receive help, be grateful, 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, but 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 whomever is willing to help you.
It can be as simple as that – but you have to ask.
If you are reluctant to talk to siblings or family members about this, we have some great tips to help you in our article, How To Talk To Siblings About Aging Parents – A Step By Step Guide.
Benefits Of Elderly Living At Home
Finally, I would like to talk about the benefits of older adults remaining in their homes (which – in the end- is the option everyone wants).
The list of these benefits differs from person to person depending on their circumstances but generally it includes things like…
- Cost to remain in their current home is usually less. Especially if your parents have been living there for many years and have paid the mortgage off. And even more so if they have kept up with the maintenance of the home and it’s not in need of major repairs.
- Sense of safety in the familiarity of their surroundings. It’s very normal to feel increased anxiety when you move to a new home or city, etc.
- If staying home means staying close to family and friends, well, that’s a great benefit (for everyone!)
- Being able to stay in your own home, maintain your own schedule and to continue doing the things you love to do – in your home – are priceless.
- If finances allow, staying home can mean making modifications personalized to your own needs. This could include things like installing a chair lift in 2 story homes, installing grab bars throughout the house, installing pull out drawers in kitchen cabinets or even installing automatic stove shut off devices for improved kitchen safety and much more.
In my experience in caring for many patients as an Occupational Therapist and in taking care of my own elderly mother and helping my friends through their caregiving situations, I can honestly say that keeping a parent at home is usually the best option – but only if the home is safe for them to continue living there and if there is help nearby.
I outlined in this article the best ways that I know of on how to help your aging parents stay in their home and I hope the information is useful for you.