Many seniors want to age in place. With so many other aspects of their lives changing – due to declining health, decreased mobility, or dementia, for example – they long for the familiarity of their homes and neighborhoods. Shopping in the same stores, visiting the same salon, or attending the same church or synagogue helps maintain a sense of normalcy during this uncertain period in their lives.
Money may also factor into their preferences. Seniors who’ve paid off their mortgages often believe they can easily reduce expenses and live affordably in their homes for many years. Others, regardless of whether they rent or own, assume that staying at home is always less expensive than moving into a care facility.
For many seniors, staying at home is the best option. But before you make that decision, you’ll want to consider all the factors. As you begin to have these difficult family conversations, consider how you can help your aging parent manage some unexpected challenges.
Many seniors, whether single or married, feel increasingly isolated from their communities and loved ones. As their routines change, they have to re-learn how to fill the gaps in their schedule. They may feel shy or be unaware of the local resources available to them. These feelings may be particularly intense for someone who has recently been widowed, or who lives far from children and grandchildren. As this article describes, loneliness severely impacts quality of life, physical health, and longevity. To reduce loneliness, you’ll want to have a plan in place to help keep your parent engaged with friends and family.
If your parent has physical limitations, moving around a big house or yard may be difficult. Just walking up the stairs or reaching supplies on high shelves may require assistance. Seniors living in remote or suburban areas are probably used to jumping in the car whenever necessary. They may take running errands or driving to social events for granted. When winter or evening driving becomes unmanageable, they’ll need extra help to get around.
Previously manageable household chores can quickly become too much for seniors living at home. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry still have to be done. Someone will need to pay bills, schedule appointments, and keep up with home maintenance. At first, your senior may just need supervision or an occasional helping hand. But over time, you’ll probably want someone to step in and take responsibility for these tasks.
Staying at home is generally less expensive than moving into a healthcare facility. Still, you’ll want to make a list of expenses and compare the real costs -- emotionally and financially -- of the two arrangements. Be sure you understand what the monthly fee at a healthcare facility includes and what, if any, additional expenses you should expect. Then compare that to the cost of maintaining and operating a home or apartment, as well as the cost of food, transportation, in-home care, and any other support services your stay-at-home parent might require.
There’s a lot to think about when you begin to consider where an aging parent should live. Fortunately, you can solve many of these problems by hiring an in-home caregiver. A qualified caregiver can provide companionship and transportation to activities. He or she can help with errands, light housekeeping, and meal preparation, and offer assistance with medications, dressing, and hygiene. Ideally, over time your caregiver will become a member of your extended family – someone who is committed to your parent’s well-being and to keeping strong lines of communication open between all involved.