Modifying the Environment and How Tasks Are Accomplished
This second part of the process to improve their chances of healthy aging at home involves making age-related changes to their living space. To make it safer and to set up systems or a plan for outside help.
“Outside help” could mean a cleaning service. Or a home health aide. Or creating a schedule for who in the family will drive them to various appointments. Whatever activity of daily living they need help with, you need to account for it.
The hardest part of this is the possibility that your parents may put up some kind of fight. Because allowing someone else to help them with tasks they could previously do on their own means they have to give up some of their independence. Something no one wants.
Changing their own home will probably go over better in an emotional sense. Especially when they realize that:
- It can be done in a way that doesn’t feel clinical.
- It will allow them to continue aging at home for longer.
Essentially, you’ll make modifications to their living space with the specific goal of helping them age in place, of planning for their longevity.
However, if you approach the topic in the right way, you can sell the changes as quality of life improvements. Helping them complete the normal activities of daily life faster, easier, and more efficiently.
A certified aging in place specialist can help guide you in terms of what changes need to be made to the physical property. As well as what services you may need to line up as they age. That way, your family member can thrive in place for the long-term.
Generally speaking, you want to plan age-related changes based on both the current stage your loved one is at and where they will likely be in the future. For example, even those in the Independence stage can benefit from upgrades like changing door knobs into lever-style handles that are easier to turn.
Likewise, you can:
- upgrade the flooring to minimize the risk of falls,
- add touchless faucets,
- widen hallways,
- improve lighting, and
- upgrade the home’s smart technology to make things controllable with the touch of a button.
All of these things make the normal aging process easier by reducing the amount of physical activity your parents will have to engage in. But they can also benefit anyone in the space (a quality of life enhancement) and improve the home’s resale value.
Later-stage improvements should include updates like:
- grab bars,
- shower chairs,
- walk-in showers,
- and so on.
If your family member is amenable (and you can afford it), it’s best to make all of these modifications at once. However, they can be done in stages as well.
Those who decide to make these age-related changes to their own home and move their aging parents in will get even more longevity out of the decision. Because when they begin to decline, their home will already be ready for them.
Again, it’s important to acknowledge that even these types of changes may not be enough for some people. Even with aging in place improvements, some seniors struggle so much that they need the additional support of a long-term care facility. Others may be fine for a while, only to decline faster than expected to the point where they can no longer age in place.
It’s different for everyone.
However, the earlier you make aging in place changes and improvements, the higher the chance that your loved one will be able to remain at home for longer.