If you are helping your parents age in place, an effective approach is to address the six areas of focus that most retirement homes offer. With proper assessment, planning, and finances you may be able to simulate many of the features of a retirement home environment for your parent(s). This will allow you to honour your parents’ wishes and prolong their time in the family home.
There are at least six areas of focus. These are mobility, personal care, medical care, social life, nutrition and spiritual care.
This area of focus includes home and room accessibility for your parents’ current and evolving condition. If you plan for a “continuum of care” as they age, you may need to make minor to major modifications to the home for their safe use. If they progress from requiring no assistive devices (cane, walker, etc) to requiring increasing levels of support, you need to be prepared to make matching modifications. These may include door widening for wheel-chair access or an entrance ramp and/or an electric stair climber.
This topic alone is the perhaps the most difficult to address since it usually involves others outside of the family such as professional, personal support workers. Activities such as bathing, showering, shaving, toileting, continence and dressing are important in maintaining a person’s appearance and dignity. Engaging a caseworker or a geriatric consultant will pay off when matching needs to capabilities.
Duplicating the level of medical care that is provided in most retirement homes in Ontario would be very difficult since there is usually an on-site nurse as well as weekly visits by a physician in those facilities. However, your parent(s) may not need that level of care and may be in reasonable health overall. Even though your loved one may be at home, it is still possible to arrange for the services of a visiting nurse along with an occasional doctor’s visit.
Retirement homes excel in this area of life since they usually have a variety of dedicated rooms or outdoor areas for social activities, such as games, crafts, billiards, shuffleboard, performances and movies. Of course, it is possible to approximate some of these activities in the home with family members, volunteers or church groups. You may wish to conduct an online search for “senior volunteers” in your community to identify ones who may be a match for your parent(s).
Retirement homes usually have a nutritionist within the organization, either at the local level or corporate level. Along with a professional chef, they are in the best position to ensure that residents have the proper nutrition to maintain their health. Duplicating this in an “age in place” home would be very difficult. However, given enough attention and a healthy food budget, it is possible for a family to come close. The main advantage the home environment provides is the ability to customize the menu with the person’s favourite dishes, especially if they are based on ethnic foods.
Unfortunately, this area of care is often given little or no attention. My direct experience of fourteen years as a Spiritual Care Worship Convenor at a local hospital for my church convinced me of the value of this important aspect in the life of the elderly. Isolation is not good for physical health and it is especially poor for spiritual health. Engaging church volunteers or arranging for transportation to and from church would be very supportive of anyone who plans to age in place.
What suggestions do you have for helping seniors age in place?
* You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.
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Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.