Despite their hopes, intentions, and family caregivers’ efforts, many seniors will, at some point, no longer be able to age in place.
For some, the home in which they’ve dreamed of living out their lives will no longer be a safe environment.
Others will experience health complications that require more medical management than occasional trips to the doctor can resolve.
There will be seniors who have mobility issues or a history of falling that leave them weak or otherwise unable to complete daily activities of living, including cooking their meals.
Seniors may be lonely and in need of others with whom to socialize. Without some friendship or activity they may become isolated and depressed.
There are many reasons that living home alone is no longer possible.
What are the options then?
Options for Health and Safety
Seniors who can no longer live alone without some help have several options.
They can transition to another level of care, beginning with paid in-home care. There are home caregivers, trained medical personnel, people who can buy their groceries and cook for them, home delivered meal services, and even companions who can live in to supervise their safety.
While they continue to live at home, seniors can opt to participate in senior day programs, which can help them socialize, get a good meal and get help accessing necessary community based resources.
There are also facilities that might be appropriate depending on financial resources such as assisted living facilities or group homes.
Many seniors who can no longer care for themselves have no other option but to enter a long term care nursing facility. This type of care will provide them around-the-clock care by trained personnel, including meals, activities and safety.
If your senior is becoming medically compromised, you may want to discuss palliative or even hospice care with the doctor to see if there might be in home care or in-patient resources that will help them.
Are there other options?
Options for Military Veterans
Veterans now have another option to entering a facility.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home Care Program is providing homes to veterans in many cities around the country.
Private homes with trained caregivers are giving veterans a home away from home.
Caring for them in a community based environment where they can continue to connect with their churches, friends, shopping and other activities that they enjoy may keep them out of a facility.
There are usually a few others in the home and this home care program is an alternative to larger institutions allowing senior veterans to feel like they are at home but still receive the care they need.
The home caregivers provide 24 hour service and personal care to the aging veteran, helping them with activities of daily living including bathing and other needs.
This medical foster home is designed to provide lifelong care and stability for veterans.
The caregivers are required to meet criteria for caring for the veterans such as first aid and CPR certification, background checks and home inspections of the caregiving environment.
The caregivers are reimbursed for their services from the veteran’s pension or other funds ranging from $1200-$2500/month depending on the level of services required such as living costs or necessary medical attention.
The VA is responsible for oversight and inspection of these programs.
A VA social worker can help with eligibility requirements and placements if your veteran is interested in this type of program.
The veteran continues to receive in home based primary care services.
The VA has a Decision Making worksheet that you can help your senior loved one use in determining the level of help they may need and which placement is best for them.
This community medical option is providing safe housing for veterans at a lower cost than traditional long term care placement.
Medical foster care may be a good option you or your loved one has searched for to meet their needs and their desires to stay in a home setting.
Can Technology Fill Some Gaps?
Technology innovations may help some seniors stay home a little longer.
Family caregivers and seniors should discuss if some of these solutions will be able to help them stay independent and safe at home.
Here are some suggestions for technology that could help:
- Smartphones – where help, communication and information is at the touch of a button
- Telehealth – virtual doctor visits that can help them stay healthier and manage their chronic diseases more effectively
- Tablets – connecting to family, emergency personnel and friends for socialization using broadband connections; using the internet to learn about treatment, medications, and get suppport from their peers
- Medication management – pill dispensers and reminders that improve their ability to take their medications safely
- PERS – personal emergency response systems that will call for help when they need it have come a long way, they look better and now use bluetooth to connect so that they can go outside the home and still be protected
- Medical and home devices that link to caregivers – there are a variety of medical monitoring devices that will send alerts to caregivers when trouble is brewing such as connected blood pressure monitors, systems that monitor movement patterns and when the pattern is not kept, blood sugar monitors, fall mats, programmable thermostats, garage and door locks that you can operate remotely and even see who is at the door, as well as a multitude of other items with more on the horizon
- Home safety – fall detectors, automatic stove shut off, motion sensing lights
These examples are only scratching the surface of technologies that will support seniors who desire to continue living independently.
As with other areas of our lives, some of the most valuable innovations will be things we don’t yet realize we need but will wonder how we ever got along before they arrived.
As much as most seniors of today and tomorrow look forward to living independent aging years, some help may be necessary to live in their chosen home.
With a little help and some new options to consider, our seniors may be able to stay safe, healthy, and comfortable in that home longer.