Ask any senior where they want to live and almost always the answer will be “I want to live at home.” Unfortunately, this may not be easy to accomplish. As we age, we may find that we need more and more support to not only stay safe, but to be comfortable. I believe two of the most important things to help this happen are observation and communication between parents and children. Parents need to be willing to share problems and issues with their children and children need to be willing to watch, listen and help.
Sometimes answers lie in modifications to the existing home. A home evaluation done by an occupational therapist can prove to be invaluable in determining what changes need to be made in the home. This can be anything from support bars in the bathroom to equipment in the kitchen for increased safety.
Sometimes answers lie with the doctor caring for the senior. Medication changes, physical therapy, occupational therapy or visits from a home health nurse may at least temporarily extend a senior’s stay in their own home.
Sometimes the answers are financial. Almost everyone worries if they will have enough money to last their lifetime. Many of us will not. It is important to know who is eligible for and how to access existing programs. For instance, the VA has Aid and Attendance. This is a benefit for many veterans and their spouses and does not need to be paid back. Information about this program is readily available on the Internet.
Many seniors need Medicaid, especially if their health requires long-term care. Investigating this should take place long before it is needed. I recommend accessing an elder care attorney for two reasons.
They can determine if your parent is eligible for Medicaid, or exactly what they may need to do to be able to access this program. Remember, Medicare does not pay for long-term care, but Medicaid does.
The second reason to see an elder care attorney is that someone younger needs to have a durable power of attorney for health and finances. Many parents worry about relinquishing control, however they may be reassured by understanding that this DPOA is of no use until they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
Finally, I go back to observation and communication. Aging safely is so important for our quality of life. Even in the best of situations a call from the hospital may happen. However, preparation and knowledge of problems will go a very long way in keeping a parent in their own home as long as possible. It may take a little or a lot of work to accomplish this.
Some useful links:
East King County Resources Guide for Older Adults and Their Families: www.kirklandwa.gov and search “East King County Resource Guide” or call (425) 587-3322 for a printed copy.
VA Aid and Attendance program: vaaidandattendance.com.
Dotti Snow is a registered nurse and director of Aging Safely Inc.