Aging in Place: Alternatives to Institutional Care
75% of people hope to stay in their homes as they age, according to a poll in 2010 conducted by AARP. A prevalent myth about aging in place is that it doesn’t require any planning or effort; it is something that happens as naturally as aging itself. Nearly 1.7 million Americans live in nursing homes and 1 million people reside in assisted living facilities, according to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Aging in place well does require advance planning, family involvement, and professional support and guidance.
The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” Aging in place really is less about aging and more about living in place. It is about the quality of life that you enjoy in the places you define as home.
Safety & Independence
One of the largest elements to aging in place is finding a proper balance between safety and independence. A challenge of longevity is that we are likely to outlive our ability to do daily activities such as driving, cooking and cleaning, and other personal care tasks. The question we should be asking, is how do we continue to live well in our home and put a support system in place to protect our values and safety? Rather than hunkering down and ignoring problems that would threaten independence, we should be surrounding ourselves with professionals and loved ones who can help face future challenges head on and derive a well-thought out plan.
An Environment of Support
As human beings, our environment plays a huge role in our life rhythm, our sense of well-being and belonging. It is the reason we sleep better in our own bed; the food tastes better from our own kitchen and gardens; we are more comfortable getting ready in our own bathrooms; we heal faster when we have our own space to rest and rejuvenate. This familiarity is not something that we should take for granted. Staying in a community of support that has been built over time also plays a significant role in our quality of life in the home. Remaining surrounded by neighbors, friends, and spiritual communities can offer social and emotional support as well as assistance with the logistics of day-to-day living.
Alternative to Institutional Care
A common sentiment that we hear from adult children is that they don’t want to “put their parents away in a home.” When we think of institutional care for the elderly, we often conjure up images from our childhood spent visiting a grandparent or great-grandparent and traveling down long hallways lined with the sad, sick, and dying. So much has changed, but as people are enjoying longevity and vitality, they are choosing more and more to “age in place” or stay in their own home. Aging in place begins with a new service model full of options for receiving necessary support and care on the individuals’ terms and turf.
Options in Care
- Home Care Services can offer a scalable care option for aging adults wanting to stay in their home. They may benefit from just a few hours of service a week for errands, medication reminders, getting ready in the morning, or general household chores. Care can be scaled up all the way to 24-hour live-in care as needed. The consumer is in control of how much care is received and they can increase care for a period of time, after recovering from a surgery for example. Proper management of chronic illness has one of the largest impacts on quality of life and the ability to age in place. Having a Certified Nursing Assistant regularly in the home can add that extra support to ensure consistent adherence to doctor’s orders and medications, reduce the risk of falls, viable transportation to errands, outings, and appointments, etc.
- Care Management Services: While the healthcare world is very fragmented, a Geriatric Care Manager can act as a cohesive glue holding together all the different elements of care. Care Managers, as Registered Nurses or Masters of Social Work, begin by creating a plan of care that can adapt to changing needs. They act as a liaison between the many doctors and specialists, and advocate for their client to ensure their wishes are respected and their needs are met with quality solutions. As a neutral professional, their services are one of the best ways to save time and reduce stress for families. You can find a Professional Geriatric Care Manager anywhere in the country by visiting online at www.CareManager.org.
When we think about healthcare, we tend to imagine long sterile hallways, tubes and beeping machines. However, there is so much care that can be provided in the comfort of home. Services such as catheter care, wound care, diabetes management, and medication management can be provided within the comfort and privacy of home. It is important that caregivers within the home are Certified Nursing Assistants working with an agency who are receiving direct supervision, have undergone national background checks, and whose paychecks, taxes, and benefits are managed by a professional home care company.
Medicare & Long-Term Care Insurance
One of the biggest myths is that Medicare will pay for the cost of long-term care. For chronic long-term care, the individual is responsible for the cost. As we are enjoying longer and longer lives, one of the challenges of longevity is finding out how to pay for more and more care costs during the last 10, 20, and even 30 years of life. Long-Term Care insurance can be acquired by the individual to help lessen the burden of out-of-pocket care costs throughout the years. When choosing a long-term care plan, be sure to ask if they will cover services such as in-home care, Geriatric Care Management, etc. Be aware of any maximums in coverage as well.
Tailored support for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is crucial to maintaining safety within the home. Hallucinations, confusion, wandering, and disorientation can often threaten safety in the home and adult children are often not able to provide the full-time companionship and care that may be needed. Particularly if one spouse is suffering from dementia, but wants to remain in the home with their husband or wife, having proper care within the home is a crucial first step to aging in place. When looking for a home care agency, be sure to ask if they have caregivers who specialize in dementia care and are properly trained to provide the best quality of life. A Geriatric Care Manager can also be a valuable resource for families dealing with a loved ones’ dementia. They can provide communication techniques, disease education, and help families assimilate change and know what to expect as the disease progresses.
Baby Boomers Caring for Aging Parents
As the generation of baby boomers are aging and taking care of parents, they are also taking notes to shape their own aging and end-of-life experience. They are seeking out options in care that are counter to the outdated images and ideas of aging they have in their own minds. This life-changing experience is shaping the future of eldercare. If you are caring for an aging parent, we encourage you to begin the important conversations with your own family. Begin thinking about your wishes and values that you would like to shape the last decades of your life. What end-of-life experience do you want to have and what steps do you need to take to communicate your wishes to your family. There is a wonderful online resource called getyourshittogether.org. It was created by a women who suffered the tragic death of her young husband. Neither of them had created and gathered the documents she needed such as a power of attorney or will. Determined to help others avoid this same situation, she created a website with her story, a checklist and free templates for important documents and encourages others to get together in groups to knock out this to-do list that too often goes undone until it is too late.
If you are caring for aging parents and are looking for reprieve care or professional guidance during the next phases, Sound Options has been guiding and caring for families in the Puget Sound since 1989. Our comprehensive Home Care and Care Management services support our clients wherever they call home. For more details, visit www.SoundOptions.com/Services
Published on June 27, 2013.