Safety is always the most important consideration. Aging in place should only be considered when a senior can live at home safely. First, make sure to follow the basic safety requirements for a senior’s home. Are the fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in working order? Does your loved one know what steps to take if one of these alarms goes off? Night lights in dark areas like hallways and bathrooms are helpful additions for seniors who have weaker vision. Consider eliminating tripping hazards like rugs and electrical cords. Make sure the shower or bath is coupled with a bath mat, and consider adding a grab bar to the shower or a bathing chair to the tub.
Many seniors are dependent on others for their daily needs. For example, many can no longer drive and depend on their friends, family members or other transportation services to get them to doctor’s appointments, social gatherings or the grocery store. Many need help with daily care such as dressing or bathing. Some need assistance with watering plants, taking out the garbage or household cleaning. In order for a dependent senior to stay at home in safety and good health, they need a community of people to support them. But just as important as these practical chores is companionship. Companionship is essential to health. Loneliness and isolation can cause depression and severe health decline in seniors. Consider encouraging your loved one to join area social clubs or activities such as bingo.
Family of course is a great resource, but sometimes it’s not possible for family members to be around all the time. Consider an organization such as Home Instead who can provide in-home caregiving. Also, look into organizations like Paws for Seniors, who help seniors take care of their pets by taking over some necessary pet-owner activities like dog walking or cleaning litter boxes. A pet can be an essential companion to a senior, providing them with both company and purpose in their daily activities. Check out our previous post on animal therapy for the elderly. Another great organization is Meals on Wheels, who deliver hot meals to seniors who are often home-bound and unable to cook for themselves.
We’ve already highlighted the importance of companionship, but it can’t be stressed enough. For a senior to live comfortably at home, they must have regular contact with other people. For the most practical reasons, seniors need someone to check in on them often, to make sure the food in their refrigerator is not expired, to make sure their house is clean and to make sure they’re not experiencing any new health problems. Consider asking a neighbor to check in every now and then. A senior living alone should have easy phone access from anywhere in the house. You may consider asking them to wear a medical alert device, such as a necklace, in case of emergencies.