We recently had a consultation with an elder in their early 70’s. Widowed, the family was encouraging the elder to move out of her home and into a senior community – independent living or an over 55-yrs. community. The reason for moving shared by the elder and family was the size of the residence, the need to update the residence, and the fear of something occurring (physically or structurally) that would be more than she could handle.
Like so many of these consultations, there had been nothing done to support aging in place within the residence. Basement, bedrooms, kitchen – the residence was staged to support a family of four. There had been minor updates to the home; nothing significant. Fear was the key driver for the decision to move.
The difficulty in making a decision was compounded by the fact the elder was in good physical health, strong mental health, independent, and would be younger than most of the others in a community. There were no 55+ communities nearby. The family was focused on moving out of a one-story ranch into something smaller.
A move at this moment in time, for this elder, was possible; but there would be another move for her within the next four to five years for health reasons. There was no need for an independent or assisted living community today. There would be in a few years.
Every situation is unique. Elders need to be empowered to make this decision on their own. To do this, it is important to:
- Plan for the next five years and not for today. Anticipate physical, health, and financial needs in five years and move toward that. When buying a home early in life, most elders considered a residence in which they could raise a family. That thought process is needed at this time: move toward the future rather than for immediate need.
- Have all the information. Speak with peers, visit communities, have a frank discussion with your healthcare providers, and engage in a purposeful conversation with family.
Understanding what could be done to enhance your current residence and increase its safety is part of this process. Our T3 transition team uses the following checklist as part of a survey of the residence to determine readiness for aging in place.
- Open up the space in your rooms by clearing pathways, increasing walking space, and removing unnecessary furniture.
- Remove anything that’s a trip hazard, especially anything close to the ground (cords, plugs, throw rugs). Move items you use often within easy reach. Don’t keep these items in places that require you to stretch, climb, or use a ladder.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater to avoid injury from hot water.
- Add extra lighting to increase visibility. By using light tape, stick-on lights, and other items, you can often avoid replacing or adding new fixtures.
- Add traction slips to the bathroom floor.
- Install an elevated toilet seat.
- Add levered handles to doors and faucets.
- Install a doorbell, light switches (interior) and smoke detector with lights.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom, hallway, and/or next to the bed.
- Install wheelchair ramps.
- Install interior motion detectors.
- Work with your alarm company for senior monitoring devices.
- Install cameras for family or caregivers to easily check-in.
- Widen your doorways.
- Add a stair lift.
- Install a walk-in tub.
Some of these actions are inexpensive; others are more. Planning for the future and moving toward the future allows elder, caregiver, and family to maximize opportunities in a residence and right size that residence to current needs.