Q: My parents really need more help at home, but they are not ready to move into assisted living. What can we do to make sure they have what they need at home?
A: Planning to age in place involves looking at the home and the care needs from all angles. It is wonderful that your parents have you to look out for their best interests, and to help them remain in their home with support.
Often people will choose to move to assisted living for added security, as well as built in socialization. Living in a communal environment like an assisted living can be wonderful for some, but if it is not currently the right choice for your parents, then you can look at how to make their home environment safe and social just like a facility would be.
First examine their home from a safety perspective. One of the leading causes of hospitalization for older adults is falls. Download the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Check for Safety brochure at https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/check_for_safety_brochure-a.pdf You can do a walkthrough of your parents’ home and and make changes to reduce the fall risks. Consider rearranging cabinets so the most needed items are easy to reach and free from clutter.
Go through a sample day’s schedule with your parents and look at what where they need assistance. Talk with them about this process and explain that even areas where they need a little support can be managed. Be open and honest with them about your concerns and ask them to do the same with you.
These conversations will be different if you find that your parents are experiencing memory loss or are unable to make decisions that are healthy for them. If you find this is a concern, consider reaching out to one of Family Caregiver Resource Centers in Ventura County to get support for your specific situation. You can find out which one is near you by calling the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging at 805-477-7300.
Check to see if your parents are managing and taking medications correctly. They may need you to sort their medication into weekly pill boxes to make it easier and safer for them. If they are having trouble preparing meals, you can look into a home delivered meal program. Are they able to grocery shop on their own or does someone need to start doing this task for them? How are they keeping up with housekeeping and laundry?
Once you have walked through a full day with them and determined the areas where they need assistance, you can set up this help either with family and friends sharing the tasks, or by hiring in home caregiving or errand services. If your parents are resistant to outside help, try explaining that this is all with the goal of keeping them in their home and following their wishes for aging in place.
Safety and logistics of managing day-to-day tasks are important, but they do not account for quality of life and socialization. It is also important to discuss these areas when planning to age in place. Look at what groups or activities your parents are involved with and if these activities are sufficient to keep them engaged and happy. Ask your parents what brings them the most joy, and what they hope to get out of the next year. This will help you understand what is most important to them.
If you would like a trained eye to look at the situation and asses your parent’s needs, there is a program through Senior Concerns in East Ventura County. This program provides an In-Home Geriatric Assessment for a fee. A trained social worker will do a home visit and create a comprehensive care plan including recommendations in all areas of functioning. Learn more at https://www.seniorconcerns.org/programs/in-home-geriatric-assessment/
As time goes on you will need to reassess regularly if your plan is working and continuing to serve your parents’ needs. Be prepared to have a backup plan and be flexible. Supports are available once you understand what is needed. There is never one perfect solution, but you will let safety, quality of life and love be your guide.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org