There is a famous fable about an ant and a grasshopper. One spends the summer months frolicking while the other prepares for the winter ahead. As a result, during the long months of winter, the ant has more than he needs and the grasshopper must go without. You’ve probably heard this story before, but never considered how it relates to aging in place.
Many seniors decide that they want to remain in their homes as they age, but don’t take steps to prepare for that choice. As their bodies age, and they find their physical strengths depleted, they realize their home is not prepared for their new limitations. This often results either in a frenzy to adapt the home to their new needs, or a realization that the dream of aging in place can no longer be a reality.
To successfully age in place requires preparations. Ideally, one should prepare to age in place many years before they believe such accommodations will be necessary.
Many people wish to age in place because they see it as being less expensive than residential care. In some cases, their home is already paid for and so they will only need to pay taxes, upkeep, and insurance to maintain their residence.
However, there are other costs to aging in place. Seniors aging in place may need to upgrade or remodel their homes quite extensively. They may need to hire people to care for their yard, clean, and cook. Additionally, they may need to hire a home health aide or a nurse.
By preparing to age in place early, the costs of accommodations will be spread out and the need for assistance put off.
Small changes that can be made over time include:
Doing these small, incremental, modifications consistently will equal a home that is ready to support safe and comfortable aging in place.
The time to modify a home for aging in place is when you are fit and strong enough to make many of the adjustments yourself.
Seniors should consider the interior arrangement and design of their homes, and decide if the current arrangement will continue to be optimal as they age. Ideally, master bedrooms and living areas should be together on the lower levels. Furniture should be arranged so that wheelchairs or walkers can maneuver easily.
Walk the different living areas of your house looking for hazards. Mobility can be lost suddenly as seniors age and there may not be time to prepare the home once the mobility becomes limited. Having a well thought out home design will assure that, if mobility is suddenly lost, the senior may return home quickly because their home will already be prepared for them. If you rearrange your home while you are still able to, it will give you peace of mind for the future.
Some home modifications are quick and simple. Grab bar installation is quick and can be done in a single afternoon. On the other hand, some accommodations may take time. Installing a walk-in shower, permanent exterior ramp, or interior elevator are projects that need a bit more planning than can be done in a single afternoon.
The time to decide those things are needed is not when one is in the hospital recovering from a fractured hip or a knee replacement. Often, case managers won’t allow patients to return home until they are confident the home meets the patient’s needs.
Being proactive means that even if mobility is lost suddenly, there should be no delays in returning home while accommodations are made. This allows those aging in place to return home sooner after an accident, illness, or injury.
Many seniors don’t want to think about losing their mobility. They may be in denial that it could happen to them, or they simply may feel that it, like winter in our fable, is a long way off. There is time to prepare. Why bother about it now?
The answer, as the grasshopper learned and the ant figured out in advance, is that being prepared creates peace of mind and assures that a senior’s dreams of aging in place can become a reality. Homes modified for accessibility before it is necessary allows the senior, like the wise ant of the fable, to sit back and relax as the first snow falls on the autumn of their lives. As the first hints of arthritis cause their hands to ache, they can smile knowing that everything they need is already in place. There is no need to scramble around at the last moment hoping there is time, money, and energy to adapt their home as they transition from the autumn of their life into winter.
If you live in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island and would like more information on durable medical equipment for aging in place call (508) 802-4259 to speak to an expert at Lift and Care Systems.