By Elaine Kitt, LCSW-C, Senior Manager, Service Coordination
“Aging in Place”- – it’s a term used by people who work with seniors. It can be a catchy phrase for those trying to sell long term care insurance, reverse mortgages, or marketing for retirement living. But what does it really mean?
Simply put, aging in place means being able to live where and how a senior wants, in the setting of one’s choosing, safely and independently, and making decisions for oneself, for as long as possible. If you ask them, most older adults today say this is exactly what they want to do.
However, sometimes there are obstacles that can interfere with achieving the goal of aging in place. I’d like to offer some tips to consider that can help realize this plan.
As people regularly assess other aspects of their lives, for example by doing a financial/retirement check up and having a yearly physical exam, similarly, an assessment of our home situation is also in order. It’s a good idea to check the physical layout of our home to ensure that we can still safely and easily move around in it. For example, scatter rugs, although decorative, are not our friends as we age and move about with the help of a walker, cane, or even particular types of soled shoes. Consider removing or relocating pieces of furniture, decorations or “tschotkes” that inhibit clear paths.
Instead of having long telephone extension cords, consider keeping a few cordless phones throughout the home to be able to answer the phone or place calls without having to rush to that corded line. And while we are talking about cords, please, please, be sure there are no wires of any kind- phone or electrical – lying across the walking path of floors.
You might consider an emergency response system. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that corny commercial that goes: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” The commercial may seem contrived, but that simple system has added a tremendous sense of confidence and security to many folks who live alone, as well as to their families who are not close by.
Rearrange items that you regularly use so that it’s no longer necessary to bend over, reach up, or climb on stools. This might include food items, pots and pans, medications, and other household and personal supplies.
One of the biggest challenges as we age is recognizing the need for assistance and seeking it. So if housekeeping, lawn care, or other home maintenance become difficult or unsafe, check into having others help out. Yes, it’s true, they may not do the work exactly as you would have, but try to keep in mind that your home will be clean and you’ll be safe and able to enjoy it.
If taking a shower or bath becomes frightening or worrisome rather than enjoyable, it may be time to get some help for that, too. All seniors should look into installing safety equipment like grip bars around the tub/shower walls and even a bench or chair. Another idea is a shower head with an extended hand held hose that can make bathing safer and also quite pleasurable. Sometimes, additional support is needed and bathing requires the help of another person. Sure, it’s hard to let someone help us with such a personal task, but remember, safety is the key here.
We love our home and we want to live in it for as long as possible, and we want to make as many decisions on our own as possible. Consider talking to family, friends, and perhaps trained professionals who can help you with ways to continue to make your home safe and pleasant.
By Elaine Kitt, LCSW-C, Senior Manager, Service Coordination, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.