| Tue, Aug 08, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

How to Stay in Your Home as You Get Older

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Elderly woman with gardening gloves and hat standing next to fenceThere’s no place like home, especially as we get older. Some 87 percent of people over the age of 65 want to remain in their own homes and communities as they age, according to AARP.1

Yet for many, that hope isn’t fulfilled. An estimated 35 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home as they get older.2

Health issues are a typical trigger for moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility. That can make it seem like the decision about where to grow old is beyond your control. But that isn’t necessarily true.

“If you want to age in place, it’s extremely important to take a planful approach,” said Jim Murphy, vice president of innovation at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement.

Not sure how to start planning? The following tips can help.

Talk honestly—and early—about the support you may need.

Even the most independent people may need help as they get older. That help will most likely come from family members. Often, family caregivers step in during a crisis, rather than after discussion and careful planning, and that can create frustration on both sides.

“The biggest problem with aging is that people don’t want to talk about aging,” said Marty Bell, executive director of the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC). “They want to ignore it and pretend they’re going to stay young forever.”

Talk to family members about the future and explain your wishes clearly. Start by discussing your wishes for remaining at home and under what circumstances, Murphy suggested. From there, you can talk about what help you may need to make it happen.

Empower caregivers to ask for help.

“We hear frequently that when the caregiver gets to the breaking point, that’s when they start to say, ‘This just isn’t working anymore,’” Murphy said. “That’s when they may have to make a decision on behalf of mom or dad that they’re not capable of living in the home anymore.”

As the baby boomer generation ages, there are more and more resources and programs designed to help ease the stress of caregiving. Some of these programs are available through health insurance plans or community organizations. Medicare covers respite care that allows caregivers to take a break and come back refreshed. There are also adult day care programs and other services available at the local level.

Take a good look at your home.

Imagine a future in which you can’t get around as well as you do now. What would you have to change in order to live comfortably in your home?

Murphy suggests that older adults think about installing non-slip floor surfaces and “grab bars” for the shower or bath. You may also want to replace doorknobs with easy-to-open lever handles and use or create a first-floor bedroom. You might also consider changing outside steps to a ramp and eliminating rugs and carpets to help prevent falls.

Take advantage of tech.

Advances in technology are bringing big changes to many aspects of our lives. Smartphones, tablets and laptops can make it easier to stay in touch with friends, family and caregivers. They can also connect you to a doctor through telemedicine services, so you may be able to get some medical care right at home.

Virtual care tools are being used to help people manage medications by tracking when pills are taken and sending reminders when needed. Other tools use sensors to check heart rate, blood pressure and other health measures. The information can be sent in real time to your doctor so any problems can be addressed right away.

Some technology tools target falls, a serious health risk as we age. Motion lights can guide you at night to help you avoid tripping. And personal emergency response systems let you alert emergency services or a caregiver in case of a fall or other medical issue.

Technology can also be helpful for caregivers. Calendar apps make it easy to keep track of appointments, and other apps allow a caregiver to monitor their loved one from a distance. Some apps, for example, send a message to you confirming that your loved one has taken the correct dose of medication at the proper time.

Think about community resources.

“While someone’s ability to remain in their home is an aspect of aging in place, it isn’t the only aspect,” said Murphy. “Being able to remain in your home becomes a huge issue if you’re not also able to access your community.”

Transportation can be an issue if you don’t drive or you decide to stop driving. Find out if community organizations or local government programs offer free transportation services that can take you to doctor’s appointments and social events. Programs like Meals on Wheels can also bring services to your doorstep.

If your community has a senior center, schedule a visit to learn more about the programs and services they offer. Even if you don’t need help now, it’s wise to be aware of what’s available in case your needs change down the road.

Don’t forget the money factor.

Health issues aren’t the only reason people end up moving to a nursing home. Money can be an obstacle to remaining at home, especially if in-home care is needed. Bell of the NAIPC recommends you start saving as soon as possible and have frank conversations with family members about how much care may cost and about how to manage those expenses.

Check out AARP’s Health Care Costs Calculator to get an idea of how much you may need to save to cover health care costs in your later years.

The bottom line

Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” If your goal is to live in your home as long and as independently as possible, then plan for it. Your family, friends and community can help.

Related Content

How to Fight Frailty for More Life in Your Years

Caregiver Corner: Necessary Conversations Part 1

Three Basic Balance Exercises for Seniors


1Livable Communities Baby Boomer Facts and Figures

2Meeting the Long-Term Care Needs of the Baby Boomers, 2007, the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.


For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


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