“The stairs are getting so hard to climb.”
“I’ve lived here 40 years. No other place will seem like home.”
These are common concerns for older people aging at home. And, you may share an often-heard wish- “I want to stay in my own home!” The good news is that with the right help you might be able to continue aging at home.
In This Article:
Think about the kinds of help you might want in the near future to make aging at home easier. Planning ahead is hard because you never know how your needs might change. Maybe you live alone, so there is no one to help you at home. Maybe you don’t need help right now, but you live with a husband or wife who does. Whatever your situation, start by looking at any illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, or emphysema that you have. Then talk to your doctor about how these health problems could make it hard for you to get around or take care of yourself in the future. Help getting dressed in the morning, fixing a meal, or remembering to take medicine may be all you need to stay at home.
You can get almost any type of help you want in your home, often for a cost. The following list includes some common things people need for aging at home.
Is bathing, washing your hair, or dressing getting harder to do? Maybe a relative or friend could help you. Or, you could hire someone trained to help you for a short time each day in your home.
Do you need help with chores like housecleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, or laundry? Some grocery stores and drug stores will take your order over the phone and bring the items to your home. There are cleaning services you can hire, or maybe someone you know has a housekeeper to suggest. Some housekeepers will help with laundry. Some dry cleaners will pick up and deliver your clothes to your home.
Tired of cooking every day or of eating alone? Maybe you could share cooking with a friend a few times a week or have a potluck dinner with a group of friends. Sometimes meals are served at a nearby senior center, church, or synagogue. Eating out may give you a chance to visit with others. Is it hard for you to get out? Ask someone you know to bring you a healthy meal a few times a week. Also, programs like Meals on Wheels bring hot meals into your home.
Are you paying bills late or not at all because it’s tiring or hard to keep track of them? Are doctors’ bills and health insurance claim forms confusing? Ask a trusted relative to lend a hand. If that’s not possible, volunteers, financial counselors, or geriatric care managers can help. Just make sure you get the name from a trustworthy source, like your local Area Agency on Aging. Would you like to lighten the load of paying bills yourself? Talk with someone at your bank. You might also be able to have regular bills, like utilities and rent or mortgage, paid directly from your checking account.
Do you forget to take your medicine at home? There are devices available to remind you when it is time to take it. Have you just gotten out of the hospital and still need nursing care at home for a short time? Medicare might pay for a home health aide to come to your home.
Products to make aging at home easier
Is it getting harder to turn a door knob, get out of a chair, or put on your socks? There are things available to make aging at home and many of the other activities you do during the day easier. The Department of Education provides a website, www.abledata.com. If you can’t get to or use a computer, they will answer your questions at 800-227-0216. This website has information on more than 30,000 assistive technology products designed to make it easier for people with physical limitations to do things for themselves.
Getting around at home and in town
Are you having trouble walking? Think about getting an electric chair or scooter. These are sometimes covered by Medicare. Do you need someone to go with you to the doctor or shopping? Volunteer escort services may be available. Don’t drive a car any longer? Free or lower-priced public transportation and taxis may be offered in your area close to home. Maybe a relative, friend, or neighbor would take you along when they go on errands or do yours for you.
Activities and friends
Are you bored staying at home? Try visiting your local senior center. They offer a variety of activities. You might see some old friends there and meet new people too. Is it hard for you to leave your home? Maybe you would enjoy visits from someone on a regular basis. Volunteers are sometimes available to stop by your home or call once a week. They can just keep you company, or you can talk about any problems you are having.
Are you worried about crime in your neighborhood, physical abuse, or losing money as a result of a scam? Talk to your local Area Agency on Aging. Do you live alone and are afraid of becoming sick with no one around to help at home? You might want to get an emergency alert system. You just push a special button that you wear, and emergency medical personnel are called. A monthly fee is charged.
Care away from home
Do you need care but live with someone at home who can’t stay with you during the day? For example, maybe they work. Adult day care outside the home is sometimes available for older people who need help getting around or caring for themselves. The day care center can even pick you up and bring you home. If your caretaker needs to get away overnight, there are places that will provide more extended temporary respite care for aging adults.
Does your home need a few changes to make it easier and safer for aging in place? Think about things for your home like a ramp at the front door, grab bars in the tub or shower, nonskid floors, more comfortable handles on doors or faucets, and better insulation. Sound expensive? You might be able to get help paying for these changes. Check with your local or State Area Agencies on Aging, State housing finance agency, welfare department, community development groups, or the Federal Government.
Here are some resources where you can look for help aging in place:
People you know
For many older people, family, friends, and neighbors are the biggest source of help for aging at home. Talk with those close to you about the best way to get what you need. If you are physically able, think about trading services with a friend or neighbor. One could do the grocery shopping, and the other could cook dinner, for example.
Community and local government resources
Learn about the types of aging at home services and care found in your community. Health care providers and social workers may have suggestions. The local Area Agency on Aging, local and State offices on aging or social services, and your tribal organization have lists of services. Look in the phone book under “Government.” If you belong to a religious group, check with its local offices. The group might have a senior services program.
Geriatric care managers
Specially-trained people known as geriatric care managers can help make your daily life easier. They will work with you to form a long-term care plan and find the right services for aging at home. They charge for this help, and it probably won’t be covered by any insurance plan. Geriatric care managers can be very helpful when family members live far apart. They will check in with you from time to time to make sure your needs haven’t changed.
Federal Government sources
There are many resources from the Federal Government where you can start looking for information on help and aging at home. Some are on the Internet and only available with a computer. Federal Government websites are reliable. If you don’t have a computer at home, you might be able to find one at your local library or senior center. Or ask your local Area Agency on Aging. Perhaps a grandchild, niece, or nephew could search for you. The Eldercare Locator has information on many different services for older people. They can give you the number of your local Area Agency on Aging. To use this service call 800-677-1116, or go to www.eldercare.gov on the Internet.
You can get suggestions to fit your own aging needs from the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov. Just click on “Long-Term Care” and then “Long-Term Care Planning Tool.” Type in information about yourself (age, sex, and whether or not you are married), as well as your health problems and other care needs. Very quickly it will give the type of help you should look for and general advice on how to find it and how to pay for it while aging at home. You do not have to put in any personal information, not even your name or Social Security number.
The National Library of Medicine’s website
The National Library of Medicine’s website, www.medlineplus.gov, has a section “Home care services.” This contains links to information that might be of help for aging at home.
The National Institute on Aging
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has its Resource Directory for Older People. It has the names, addresses, phone numbers, and website addresses for more than 260 government agencies, professional associations, and public and private groups that have information or help for older people aging at home. You can use it online at www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation or call 800-222-2225 for help finding the resource you need.
Once you have chosen some service providers, you might be able to get more information about them from www.medicare.gov. The Home Health Compare section there can tell you more about some of the providers in your State. You can also check on how well these services help people. No computer at home? Just call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) for the same information.
Some types of help for aging at home could cost a lot. Thinking about how you are going to pay for the help you need is an important part of planning for aging at home. Some things you want may cost a lot. Others may be free. Some things may be covered by Medicare, private “Medigap” policies or other private health insurance, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance. Some may not. Check with your insurance provider(s). There is a chance that paying for just a few services around your home out of pocket could cost less in the long run than moving into an independent living, assisted living, or long-term care facility. And you will have your wish of still living and aging in your own home.
Once you have thought about which services you need, you can find out about Federal, State, and local government benefits at www.govbenefits.gov. If you can’t get to a computer, call 800-FED-INFO (800-333-4636) for the same kind of help.
Another website to search for benefits is www.benefitscheckup.org from the National Council on Aging. By typing in general information about yourself, you can see a list of possible benefits you might qualify for. You don’t have to give your name, address, or Social Security number in order to use this service.
Are you eligible for veteran’s benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs? The VA sometimes provides medical care in your home. In some areas they also offer homemaker/home health aide services, adult day health care, and hospice. You can learn more by going to www.va.gov, calling the toll-free VA Health Care Benefits number, 877-222-8387, or contacting the VA medical center nearest you.
At some point, support from family, friends, or local programs may not be enough for aging at home alone. If you need help on a full-time basis, you might want to think about having someone live in your home. Or, you could have someone from a service come in for as many hours and days as you want for a fee. You might also decide to move to a senior living facility that provides many or all of the services you need. But, in the meantime, you will have enjoyed your home and neighbors while aging at home for longer than you once thought. A little help from family, friends, and local services will have made aging at home possible.
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