Your aging parents want to stay in their current home as they get older. Maybe they’ve been running into health issues lately. You’d like to honour their wishes, but you’re concerned about their safety.
Here are some things that can be done to make it easier (and safer) for them to age in place.
As we get older, our senses may not be as sharp as they once were, and our balance may begin to falter. As a result, your aging parents may become more prone to falls.
With this in mind, a number of things can be done to enhance home safety such as improving lighting, removing scatter mats and loose electrical cords, and rearranging items in cupboards so that your parents don’t need a step stool to reach them. Bathroom safety can be improved by installing grab bars or shower seats. If stairs become an issue, your parents might want to consider rearranging their living space so they can spend most (if not all) of their time on one level. A stair lift could be another (albeit more expensive) solution.
How easy it is to make your parents’ home senior-friendly may depend on its layout. For instance, modifying a two-story or split-level home is often more challenging than modifying a bungalow. The age and state of repair of their home can be factors as well.
Often the biggest challenge is convincing your parents to accept modifications to their home. They may downplay their risk of falling or object to how something like a grab bar might look in their home.
Chances are that as your parents get older, they’ll benefit from having people check in on them from time to time. This will not only help to keep them socially connected, it will give you peace of mind. If it’s just you checking in with them and they run into a rough patch, you may feel overwhelmed if you’re helping them through it all on your own. That’s why it’s good to make connections with people in your parents’ social circle early on, whether they’re friends, neighbours, or other family members. That way, if you need to enlist their support should your parents need it, it will be easier to ask. You’ll also have a clearer idea of what each of them might be able to contribute, even if it’s just running the occasional errand or paying your parents an occasional visit. Every little bit can help.
There are lots of senior-oriented programs in communities across Ontario. These include adult day programs, fitness and recreation programs, social programs, volunteer transportation, meals on wheels, dementia programs, and the like. One good place to find out about programs in the Ottawa area is champlainhealthline.ca. Many of them are government-funded, meaning that they’re available for free or a small user fee. These programs are all designed to support seniors who are living in their own homes.
Should your parents need health care services in their home (from someone like a personal support worker, nurse, or therapist), they may be eligible to obtain them for free from Home and Community Care Support Services, another government-funded program.
Keep in mind that even if your parents have a well-thought-out plan for aging in place, there may still come a time when staying in their own home isn’t safe or practical anymore. Perhaps the number of government-funded home care hours is insufficient and it’s too expensive to top them up with private home care hours. Perhaps it’s too difficult or expensive to modify your parents’ home to meet their needs. Perhaps they’ve become lonely and it makes more sense for them to move to a senior living community where there are built-in opportunities for social connection.
Discuss these possibilities with your parents in advance if you can. In other words, try to get them to consider developing a Plan B. That way if they’re hospitalized in the future, let’s say, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to manage safely at home, you’ll have a sense of what their preferred alternatives might be. They’ll still have the final say about where they live, but it will avoid having to scramble for information about different housing options and rushing a decision.
Of course, broaching the subject with your parents ahead of time can be tricky. They may be loathe to consider other possibilities. If that’s the case, we can help. We’ve helped many families in the Ottawa area have these sorts of discussions. We can clearly outline the different options, including life in a senior living community. Call, text, or email us.