By Susan Sheehan
As our older adult population increases, home had taken on many forms, and the consumer has endless choice. As I have watched the changes in residential opportunities over the last few decades, it is clear that being an informed consumer and planning ahead is an important part of having the situation you want, when the time comes for support and care.
Many people I meet would like to stay in the place they call home, for as long as possible. The state and federal government agencies continue to provide opportunities for people to live and “age in place” in a variety of ways. Home health agencies, meals on wheels, and other “at home” services can support many living situations. However, with children out of state and a spouse that has already passed away, this is not always possible. Sometime the care needs of someone at home require more than a few hours of physical support and meal preparation. There are several steps I would recommend taking as you face these situations in the future.
Primarily, consider safety as a top priority
Being sure that safety is first, can prevent illness or injury. Medical setbacks can cause a person to then need additional care and become more dependent. Not taking medication, eating properly or getting to the doctor could ultimately cause a person to have medical issues that may have been prevented. If the home is set up with safety precautions and adaptive equipment it is likely that a person will be successful in that environment for a longer period of time.
Socialization is key
Isolation and lack of social activity can cause depression and decreased cognitive function. The Alzheimer’s Association created a program several years ago that listed ways of increasing and maintaining cognitive abilities. The program listed recommended activities like dancing, playing games (cards, puzzles etc) and attending social events where people are likely to have meaningful conversation. Being able to provide this type of activity where someone lives is key to success!
Physical activity should be ongoing
“Use it or lose it” is the phrase we continue to hear. As people age the tendency is to become less active. Regular exercise and continuing normal daily activities keeps us getting up and moving each day. Even when things get harder to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help, but know when your physical changes can be addressed. In our assisted living community, many of our residents will be seen by a physical or occupational therapist to evaluate changes in abilities. These visits often result in a suggested exercise routine and adaptive equipment that may allow the person to return to a state of better physical independence.
Change is not easy for anyone. Living independently is what we all strive for. Adding services at home, utilizing local agencies, or considering a new residence can sometimes be the key to creating a safer and better environment. Using resources like your local ASAP, Aging Service Access Point, can often point you in the direction of services that you may not know about. You could also be eligible for services that could come to you free of charge or for a minimal expense based on your income.
Planning ahead is the key to keeping ahead of crisis. If you know that you have a medical condition that may cause you to be more dependent in the future, start looking now to see how you may want to receive care. Tour assisted living communities and nursing facilities that may be able to accommodate these needs. Talking to the people in these types of residential settings may also help you in other ways to prepare, even if you never need them.
About the Author
Susan Sheehan is the Executive Director at Windrose at Weymouth, a memory care assisted living. She has over 20 years of experience in healthcare and has been working with the elders in the South Shore communities for most of her professional years. She runs caregiver support groups, participates in Alzheimer’s disease advocacy, and has been an Alzheimer’s coach. Involved in research studies, she has learned innovative ways to care for people with memory impairment, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with caregivers in many settings.