For seniors and their adult children, the family home may be a source of comfort, safety, and happy memories. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of aging in place. Still, your senior’s safety has to be your top priority. If you’re not sure whether your parent can be safe at home – let alone what you need to do to make it happen – start by asking these three questions.
1. What risks does the home present to your senior’s physical safety?
First consider the stairs. If your senior can’t manage them safely on his own, bring as many daily activities onto the main floor as possible. You might even want to discuss downsizing to a single-floor home or doing some renovations to accommodate first-floor living.
Next, move to the kitchen. Does your senior still cook? Is there a chance she’ll forget to turn off the stove? Do hot pans or heavy dishes present a danger? If so, it’s time to simplify by helping your senior prepare meals in advance, or by hiring a caregiver who can do the cooking.
Also, consider what modifications might be needed in the bathroom. For now it might be as simple as putting a non-slip mat in the bathtub, purchasing a shower chair, or installing a temperature-controlled device to prevent scalding from hot water. But over time, your senior may need his caregiver to provide help with bathing, too.
2. How well can your senior handle home maintenance?
Will your senior know what to do – and remember to do it – if the heater breaks or if power goes out in a storm? What about snow removal? Or testing smoke detectors? It’s easy to forget about these everyday emergencies, until they come up and you discover your parent no longer knows how to handle them.
To avoid a crisis, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of household maintenance issues and put a clear plan in place for dealing with them. Family, friends, and neighbors may be able to pitch in with occasional upkeep while a caregiver helps manage the day-to-day issues. Be sure to discuss the details with your senior and provide a clear list of emergency phone numbers as well as numbers for repairmen and handymen.
3. Can your senior stay organized?
It’s important to be realistic about whether or not your senior is willing and able to manage household paperwork. Paying bills, filing taxes, and keeping up with the mail can be overwhelming and confusing for some. And an emergency phone list won’t do much good if your senior can’t find it or is unable to call for help. Some of these issues may present a bigger problem for widows or widowers who relied on their spouses to handle household logistics.
As with other challenges related to aging in place, hiring a caregiver can address many household management concerns. Not only can a caregiver can remind your senior to pay bills and stay on top of other paperwork, she can keep an eye on larger safety issues. With coordinated effort and open communication, you can work together to ensure that home is, and continues to be, safe and comfortable for your senior.