How to help a loved one 'age at home'

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Have you found yourself in a caregiving situation or anticipating being in one in the future? Chances are, your aging loved one wishes to "age in place," so what does that mean?

According to AARP, nearly 90% of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, often referred to as "aging in place." You have suddenly found yourself as the air traffic controller responsible for your loved one's safety and well-being.

Here are some tips to help your loved one maintain independence for as long as possible.

Know your limits

Evaluate the difference between your loved one's needs and your ability to assist. One of the biggest challenges that face caregivers is the literal juggling of all aspects of life. If you have too many balls in the air they will all start tumbling down. It is very common for caregivers to feel like they've got it all handled and continue to add more and more balls. Often caregivers find themselves sandwiched between care for an elder and care for children, grandchildren, and/or a spouse as well as managing responsibilities at work. When you enter into a primary caregiving role it is important to make it clear that you are going to try this but if it becomes too much, an alternative will need to be considered. Many people have found themselves in situations promising family members that they would never put them in a "home." Steer clear of these types of commitments because it is not possible to completely anticipate the future care needs nor what may impact your future ability to provide such heavy assistance.

Evaluate finances

No matter how you slice it, care as we age gets expensive and much to the wonderment and even dismay of many people, private insurance and Medicare do not cover all of it. In fact, most of the care needs that a loved one will need whether it is aging in place care or residential care will need to be funded out of pocket! Helping a loved one age in place also means that family members need to come together and see if they have any funds that they can put toward the effort as well.

Determine care needs

Certain chronic illnesses have "projected trajectories" meaning they typically follow a certain path of decline. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as congestive heart failure, kidney failure, dementia, or even Parkinson's disease (to name just a few), it is important to get the big picture from their family care physician about what to expect. Knowing what the future holds also gives you and your loved one a sense of control. Being able to plan ahead will help allay panic when there is a future health crisis.

Enlist support from professionals

We are incredibly resource rich when it comes to long-term-care organizations in this area. A great place to start is with Transitions GuidingLights Caregiver Support Center. This nonprofit charity provides free information, referral, education, and support to family caregivers. They are just a phone call away and can help you unravel the tangled web of resources available to you in our community. There are so many home and community-based organizations available in this area to support you in your efforts to help your loved one age in place.

Adult day care organizations are one of the best-kept secrets in long-term care. They offer services for seniors so family members who work full- or part-time or have additional obligations like child-rearing can take time for self-care. The National Adult Day Service Association defines it as "coordinated programs of professional and compassionate services for adults in a community-based group setting. They provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day. Adult day care centers allow seniors to enjoy safe and productive days in a caring environment while returning to the comfort and familiarity of home at night." Adult day care centers are typically very affordable, and we are very fortunate to have both medically-based and socially-based centers in this area. This benefit is typically paid for privately or with long-term-care insurance.
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