Most people prefer to live out their lives in their own homes, if possible. So how can you best help a parent or loved one who prefers to "age in place" at home? The following measures can help prolong independent living:
1. Automate as much as possible.
Have bill paying, medication delivery, or other recurring responsibilities handled electronically so your loved one doesn't have to handle them.
2. Explore community resources.
Local services such as Meals on Wheels provide both nutrition and companionship, both of which are associated with better health. Look into transportation services and social activities (such as adult day centers) as well.
3. Retrofit where you can.
Simple changes can make it easier to turn on light switches and faucets, maneuver a wheelchair, or navigate the bathroom more safely.
4. Run a basic safety inspection.
Take basic steps to make the home safe. Examples: Get rid of unnecessary clutter, from furniture to papers. Make sure the hot water isn't set at scalding. Make sure lighting is adequate, especially on stairs and outdoor walkways.
5. Make sure your loved one has ongoing social stimulation.
A challenge for many older adults is that old friends and neighbors move away or die, increasing their isolation. Loneliness is a major health risk for shut-ins. Find activities your loved one can be involved with and make sure he or she has a way to get to them. Or bring others into the house, in the form of a volunteer network or a paid elder companion.
6. Arrange for home maintenance.
"Keeping the place up" is a challenge for frail older adults. If you can't do the work yourself, contract with regular services for lawn mowing and yard upkeep, cleaning gutters, and so on.
7. Look into monitoring systems.
Examples include personal emergency alert systems, reminders for taking medications, and video monitors. They can give you both increased peace of mind by providing a safety net.
8. Keep an eye on how it's going.
Someone can only live alone successfully if they (or others living with them or nearby) are not in day-to-day danger. Periodically evaluate how it's going by checking for signs it might be time for assisted living, such as indications of trouble with meal prep or financial missteps.