I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Viki Kind of Kind Ethics this afternoon. Viki was a great host! We had several questions from callers and were able to provide a lot of practical information for people who want to plan to age in place or who are caring for an older parent.
If you would like to hear it, please head on over to the aging in place interview. You can listen right from your computer.
For everyone’s benefit, I’m posting my notes from the call below. They are rough, but I hope they provide some value. However, we covered more in the call. You should really listen to it for the full benefit.
1. What is aging in place?
Aging in place the concept simply means securing necessary support services in response to changing personal needs as you grow older and allowing to remain in your residence of choice for as long as you are able.
Or, more simply put, remaining in your home as you grow older and executing your plan to manage your environment, life activities and assistance you’ll require as your needs change.
2. Why is it important?
The issues that the aging in place concept addresses affect a lot of people. You (or a loved one), the immediate family or close friends, your community and the nation. I know a problem that big sounds ominous, but let me break it down.
Currently, the majority of persons aged 65 and older are living either with a spouse or alone in their own home. Many of these older people struggle with everyday tasks, their health care and the lives they lead in their homes. For many, their quality of life goes down as they get older.
As of 2000, there were approximately 35 million Americans over the age of 65. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030 there will be approximately 71.5 million Americans over the age of 65. That number is more than twice what it was in 2000 and represents nearly 20% of the entire projected U.S. population in 2030. The challenge this number of older Americans will bring to the country is unprecedented.
The vast majority of people will require some assistance from people, organizations or agencies in their community. Some examples of this would be non-medical care in the home, having a yard or house maintained, transportation or medical care. At some point, a large number will also require other living arrangements because they can no longer be on their own.
So, between the aging in place stage and end of life, you could require a lot of involvement from other businesses or organizations in your community. The fact is, most communities currently do not have the capability to provide assistance to everyone that will need it. That capability will not increase sufficiently to accommodate the needs that are growing as the number of older people increases.
Family & Friends
As you grow older, it is only natural for family and friends to step in to help. There are many things that these people will be concerned with, such as your health, your diminishing abilities, transportation or your day-to-day care. Many of these people will have families and life cares of their own.
The plan that you make will help relieve some of the stress your situation will place on them.
3. Is aging in place the answer for everyone?
Actually, it isn’t “the answer” for anything; it is part of the answer for many people. Not everyone will be able to age in place, either for health reasons, living conditions or other situations. However, for a large number of people, aging in place can be part of the overall plan for their later years.
4. What can aging in place mean for the average person?
There will be many situations and choices that you have the right (and, yes, the responsibility) to decide. If you plan properly, you get to exercise more control. Control over your quality of life, your dignity & your future.
5. What do I, or my loved one, need to age in place?
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, you need a plan. Thankfully, you don’t have to go down that road alone. The plan is yours, but should involve your family and any people or organizations in your community who can help you. I can’t stress how important it is for you to involve the people who are going to be helping you as you grow older during the planning process. Your wishes need to be prepared for, but they also need to be communicated. Also, if your family will be involved, it is only fair to include them as much of the responsibility for your care may fall on them as you age.
An example of some of the people who can help answer your questions and help you build & execute your plan are:
- Your primary care physician
- Occupational Therapist
- REALTOR® with the Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation
- Builder or contractor with the Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation
- Geriatric care manager
- Elder Law attorney
- A Certified Financial Planner, preferably with certifications or experience in senior finances
6. What are the most common questions you get from people about aging in place?
The question I get asked the most is, “How do we pay for home modifications for my mother or father?” And, I have to tell you, that is the most difficult one to answer. So much of that depends on a person’s situation, income level or location. Just for the record, I’m not an expert in finances, so do not take any of this as financial advice. You need to talk to a certified financial planner or someone who is qualified to answer your financial questions. That said, if you do not have a money available to pay for things like in-home care, home modifications, medical care, etc., there is some funding available at a local level. Much of that is hard to come by. Here a few things I’ve discovered that might be helpful.
(Much of this list comes from Dawn Tyler, Care Management Director at Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Chicago. She’s been a great resource, so kudos to her.)
- Use the Eldercare locator from the US Government ( http://www.eldercare.gov/ or 1-800-677-1116) to connect with your local Area Agency on Aging. They will have the most relevant information available.
- Local cities have CDBG (community development block grants) for home repair. And/or contact the local Mayor to find local funds.
- Rural Development is also a great resource for low-interest 1% loans/forgiveable loans and grants for home repair/home mod. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/
- Sometimes community foundations will also fund a variety of start-up programs and may know where to turn locally.
- Habitat/Rebuild Together are also up in our neck of the woods Indiana/Michigan.
- Larger churches in our area volunteering, especially the men’s groups for some handyman/home fix up.
- Reverse mortgages. Not for everyone, but can help many.
- If you’re a veteran, try the Veteran’s Administration
I also get asked a lot about how one gets modifications done to their parent’s home. Many people understand that their parent’s needs are changing and that things can be done to their home to make it easier to live in. You can talk to an Occupational Therapist about it. They will assess the person’s needs and their home, then recommend modifications that can be made. You can also talk to a builder, contractor or interior designer who has the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation from the National Association of Home Builders or any number of other designations or experience in senior accessibility. The most important thing you can do is to make sure they have experience, check references, licenses and certifications.
Another question I get asked a lot is, “How do I know when my parent is no longer fit to drive?” That’s a tough one for many adult children. Being mobile is such a big part of our lives. An older person not being able to drive inhibits them, as well as their family and friends. This is one of those situations where you have to have the “talk” with them when you feel the time is right. Many adult children are afraid to have that conversation with their parent for one reason or another. My best advice is if you think it’s a problem, you should address it with them no matter how difficult it may be. You might save someone’s life; maybe even theirs.
7. What would you consider your best advice for someone planning to age in place?
Remember, aging in place is only part successful aging. You need to step back and consider your life after retirement and make the best plans you can for it. There is no cookie cutter plan to follow. And, if you don’t do it, someone will eventually be responsible for you who may not make the same choices for your life that you would. Here are some ideas to start you thinking.
- Think about what you want your life to be like and balance that with the reality of your current situation. (where you live, finances. etc.)
- Research what successful aging in place will take. There is plenty of information available online and you can start on our website @ ageinplace.com.
- Make a list of the type of help you might need (financial advisement, legal planning, long-term care, etc.) and locate professionals that can help you with these items.
- Begin identifying the items that are currently achievable, such as legal or financial planning, home modifications or others as your situation dictates.
- Start building your plan in timeline form and commit to dates. Fill in as you learn more and put completion dates on things. Make the commitment to yourself to finish it.
As I said earlier, every situation is different. The key is to start planning as early as you can, be as thorough as you can, involve your family in the process and revisit your plan regularly.