One of the things that becomes more important with age is home. Being home. It’s also one of those things that we worry about losing especially when faced with health or mobility challenges.
We (and our loved ones) want to be in a place that is familiar and comfortable. It also has to be safe.
No one wants to think that getting older or becoming ill might require that they be placed in a care facility. On the contrary. More and more, people are opting to remain at home with accommodations to the greatest extent possible. Age- or illness-related challenges no longer mean automatic placement. Many challenges can now be safely managed at home.
And, remaining in one’s home goes well beyond just wanting to be in comfortable, familiar surroundings. Research tells us that people who are able to remain at home with accommodations if needed, tend to report being happier, more content and more optimistic about the challenges they face.
When home becomes challenging due to issues related to illness or mobility, it’s time to look at the surroundings. There are now so many options for making for a safe and accessible home.
So, when remaining home is the goal, where do you start? Start here:
Take a Walk
Take a walk through the home and start at the entrance. You’re looking for obvious barriers or obstacles that could make navigating the space unsafe or even impossible.
- Is the entrance accessible?
- Are there steps that one cannot navigate? Is a ramp required?
- Are the doors wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair if needed?
- Are door handles easy to turn?
- Are there clear pathways between rooms?
- Are cabinets and appliances within reach?
- Are there trip and fall hazards like throw rugs, power cords and such?
- Is the bathroom safe and accessible? Think safety bars, non-slip tub/shower, etc.
Living at home can be comforting. It can also be somewhat isolating especially if mobility is limited. Maintaining contacts with family, friends and healthcare providers is essential to both health and well-being. In fact, social connection is one of the most important factors in healthy aging.
Thanks to technology, there are a number of ways to stay connected to family and friends:
- Smartphones that are user-friendly
- Social media apps
- Video chat like Face Time and Skype
It’s also important to have a social network. Spend face-to-face time with loved ones. Arrange for visits and outings whenever possible. Attend family functions when possible.
Prepare for Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s)
Aging and illness can make doing even simple tasks a challenge. Things like bathing, dressing and eating can sometimes require a little creativity and some accommodation.
Think about the things you (or your loved one) do every day. Are there some things you need a little extra help with? If so, look for tools or different techniques that make daily living tasks easier. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Grabbers to reach items easily
- Adult bibs to help manage spills
- Adaptive utensils like weighted forks and spoons
- Button fasteners and zipper pulls
- Easy grip utensils
- Shower chairs, bars and bath benches
- Velcro fasteners
These are just a few of the many items out there to make your ADL’s easier. If there’s a need, chances are, there’s a tool for that!
One word of advice: when shopping for assistive tools, be sure to look for tools designed especially for adults. People want to feel respected and dignified. Assistive tools should be supportive while not calling attention to the issue. At Classy Pal, our adult bibs are sophisticated yet practical and designed for mature adults. You won’t find silly cartoons or primary colors. Look for tools that are practical yet dignified and make you (or your loved one) feel comfortable.
Sometimes, no matter how well-prepared we are, there are just some things we need help with. That’s when bringing in some outside help can make a tremendous difference.
You might thinking, “Well, I don’t need home health. I just need help getting dressed or keeping my home tidy.” And that’s okay.
There are services for all kinds of in-home needs. You (or your loved one) might just need a little help with the daily tasks of bathing and dressing. You might need someone to tidy the house. Or you might need someone to help with running errands like grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.
A great place to start is with your local senior center. Chances are, they have the low down on all the local services available.
Plan for Emergencies
Living at home is the right choice for many adults. However, it is also important to have a contingency plan for emergencies. This is especially true if you (or your loved one) has medical issues that require monitoring and/or you plan to live alone.
- How will you see your doctor or remain in contact with them?
- How will you get your medications?
- Who can you call in an emergency?
- How will you get help if you are unable to call yourself?
- Do you know where the nearest emergency room or urgent care is?
These are the practical things you and your loved ones need to know and have a plan in place – just in case. Every situation is different so your plan needs to be unique to your situation. Here are some things to think about:
- Have a designated person to make your appointments if you are unable to do so.
- Have a designated person accompany you to and from appointments. This is often a good idea when dealing with a stressful medical situation as we tend to forget details. Having someone along for support can make a huge difference.
- Have your doctor’s information in an accessible place and tell someone where it is.
- Keep your medication list up-to-date and tell someone where it is.
- If you live alone, have a designated person check on you periodically.
- Consider a medical alert system especially if you live alone or have a serious medical condition.
Choosing to remain at home may be the right choice for you or your loved one. The key is preparing well and having a sound plan in place. With a little planning, you can be comfortable and safe and living your best life.