Independence — it means something different to everyone. Maybe it’s being entrusted with the family car. Or maybe it’s having that first job and the ability to make your own spending decisions. For an elderly person, however, it becomes something very precious. Not surprisingly, 9 out of 10 people over age 65 want to continue living in their own homes.
“I think it’s almost one of those primal things,” says Mark Sabalauskas, Product Manager at Philips Lifeline. “It’s not something you choose because you want X, Y, or Z. It’s a basic human need.”
But aging at home for the vast numbers of seniors desiring to do so has benefits beyond satisfying that basic need, ranging from improving a person’s mental and emotional well-being to physical health.
“One of the main benefits of being able to age in the home is the preservation of self-esteem,” says Tim Driver, CEO of Mature Caregivers, a Philips aging well partner that offers homecare services and is based in Waltham, Mass. “And if they have confidence in their ability to remain independent, it means they are able to socialize and interact with the world around them.”
Aging in Place with Homecare Can Potentially Reduce Hospital Costs
Society benefits as well. For example, adults receiving homecare generally require fewer trips to the hospital, resulting in a reduction in health care costs overall. In 2008 alone, the United States saved $25 billion in hospital costs due to the growth in homecare over the previous decade, according to research by the Home Care Association of America.
Most parents know that the best present they could give to their children is their independence. Carry that several decades forward, and aging parents feel that remaining in their home and staying independent helps them avoid becoming a burden to those same children.
Senior Independence Requires Planning
But achieving that goal of independence and not becoming a burden isn’t something that just happens by itself — it must be planned. Sadly most people don’t do the necessary planning.
“For most families, the need for aging care is something that comes as a surprise,” says Driver. “As a result, it becomes significantly more complex and stressful than it otherwise might be.”
For independent living to happen safely, you and your senior loved must take some essential steps. These include:
- An evaluation to ensure that the home is a safe environment for an aging adult. This would turn up any potential hazards that could cause someone, particularly those who walk with assistance, to fall.
- Ideally, making changes that would create first-floor living would address the risk of falling. Having to go up and down stairs increases the risk of falls, which can cause injuries that could put the elderly person in a downward spiral.
- Making sure the elderly occupant has the right assistance and supports in place. This is typically a combination of a medical alert device and some human support, whether that is a family member or a professional caregiver.
“Each situation is a little different, but the right combination of safety supports and supervision, is a recipe for a long-term, secure and safe set-up in the home,” says Driver. “It doesn’t have to be lots and lots of hours a day. It can be just a few hours a day.”
Help, a Few Hours a Day
While professional homecare costs vary by location, they are typically not prohibitive, says Driver. A professional can be brought on board for a couple of hours a day to check that medications are being taken as directed, meals are made, and personal hygiene is attended to, if necessary.
The value of companionship from someone who’ll sit and talk or play cards can’t be understated either. With 43 percent of those over the age of 65 reporting feeling lonely, according to the University of California, San Francisco, social isolation can produce some unwanted outcomes, including a decline in ability to perform activities of daily living. Because homecare professionals take up the slack when a senior has driving limitations, social interactions are more likely to occur.
“With these kinds of support in place, it’s a recipe that can lead to long-term, safe, and secure aging in the home,” says Driver.