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Aging in Place

Strategies to enable your aging parent to remain at home safely

One of the most difficult decisions a child has to make for his or her parent is whether or not to place an aging parent in long-term care. Luckily, more and more options that allow your parent to “age in place” – live at home with the appropriate care, modifications, and push-in services – are available. There are numerous communities and agencies recognizing both the social and the economic benefits of allowing aging parents to remain in their homes.

The advantage for your aging parents is that aging in place allows them to remain more independent, remain in a home they may have been in for most of their adult life, and remain in the community. With the annual cost of nursing home expenditures exceeding $70,000 (according to the AARP), aging in place solutions are not just beneficial to your aging parents but can also be a much smaller financial hardship.

There are certain individuals – those with advanced cases of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and those who require 24-hour care or supervision – for whom aging in place may not be the best option; but for many aging parents, it is the ideal solution for both parents and the adult children who are caring for them.

To be successful in assisting your aging parents to age in place, you must consider several things. Depending on your parents’ mental and physical health, you may want to discuss obtaining power of attorney to help manage their resources as well as make medical decisions for them. Depending on their medical needs, you may need to arrange for in-home health services, whether it’s a nurse who comes in from time to time to check on your aging parent or a home care provider who can be there for more extended periods of time to assist with activities such as bathing and dressing, grocery shopping and meal preparation.

The home your aging parent lives in may need modification or remodeling – everything from removing a tub in exchange for a walk-in shower to safety rails along the hallways to a ramp instead of stairs can be provided to make it possible for your aging parent to remain safely at home.

What allows aging parents to be most successful at aging in place, however, is the support of family. When family members are supportive of the idea of keeping mom or dad (or both) independent for as long as possible, and can contribute readily to that goal, aging parents have the best success.

Aging in place can be a much better option than moving in with family or going to a nursing home. Even if your aging parent has a serious disease or chronic condition, it no longer means that he or she has to leave home and move to a skilled nursing facility or other care environment. It does mean, however, that adequate planning and precautions must be taken. You will want to make sure your aging parent has access to the necessary health care. If driving becomes difficult or impossible, transportation may need to be arranged. Family members can often provide a lot of the needed support, but there are also community options available. Aging in place is a new trend, one that will only grow as more and more of the population grays.