JULY 17, 2020

HOW COVID-19 HAS

CHANGED AGING IN AMERICA

Even before the pandemic there was a growing trend in older adults of “aging in place.” Aging in place can be defined as staying in your own home as you get older. According to AARP, surveys indicate that nine out of 10 people prefer to stay and age in their own homes.

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If you are looking for good news these days, then look no further: Americans are living longer. Life expectancy is increasing in the United States thanks to medical advances and other innovations that have improved the quality of life. There are currently 72 million baby boomers in our country between the ages of 56 and 74. By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65 years old. With such an increase of older adults, we have also seen a progression in elder care, but greater advancements will have to be made to support such a growing number of seniors.

 

Nursing home and senior living communities have long been a popular option for aging adults. There are a wide range of living community options for adults, depending on the type of care and level of activity that is needed. However, care facilities have recently been in the news as being a hotbed for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). In fact, studies have shown that up to 40% of all COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in care facilities.

The Changing Landscape of Senior Care

While it is easy to argue about what could have been done differently, the question we now ask is what changes need to be made to these facilities to better serve their communities in the future. Until these discussions can be had and decisions made, families are now wrestling with the question of what they should do with their parent or grandparent. After seeing what has happened during the Coronavirus pandemic, adults approaching old-age are less-likely to choose senior living facilities, and adults who have lived in care facilities are now looking for other options. It’s not so easy to pack up and move back home though. Many older adults are in facilities because their families either did not have the time or the skillset to care for them.

 

Even before the pandemic there was a growing trend in older adults of “aging in place.” Aging in place can be defined as staying in your own home as you get older. According to AARP, surveys indicate that nine out of 10 people prefer to stay and age in their own homes. This is not a surprise though. Of course adults would rather stay in their lifetime home where they are comfortable! Aging in place requires serious planning and collaboration from family members, friends, and professionals. Homes might need to be retrofitted, arrangements made for medications, doctors’ appointments, and meals. But don’t allow any of that to stop you! Here are a few ideas to consider as you plan to help someone age in place:

Planning Ahead to Age in Place

Planning ahead can be daunting task. We never know what personal needs might change or arise in the future. The best way to plan ahead is to take a detailed look at the current situation.  Ask yourself similar questions to the ones posted below and notice what secondary questions or concerns they bring up.

  • Do you live alone? Or is there someone living with you who is capable of helping?
  • Do you have family or friends that live close by?
  • What illnesses, challenges, or disabilities do you have?

 

By detailing the circumstances of the present, you will be prepared to make plans for the future. Consider pondering what kind of help you may want in the future, and who around you can offer it.

What Types of Support Services are Available?

Most adults who are aging in place at home do not have a family member who can fill the full-time caretaker role. There are many professional services that are offered at a cost. As part of the planning process, it would be wise to look at the costs of such services. You can find the services that are listed in your local area by visiting the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website. Services available to you include:

  • Personal Care
  • Household Chores
  • Food and Meals
  • Finance Management
  • Healthcare

Concerns with Aging in Place

It’s perfectly natural to have concerns about aging in place. While most concerns are addressed within a care facility by professionals, family members now become the professionals charged with mitigating risks and fears. Here are just a few of the common concerns that are experienced by those who are planning to age at home:

 

Mobility in and around the home: Care facilities have many built-in advantages when it comes to providing fall prevention aids. Most of our homes are not outfitted with specialized equipment to promote mobility and prevent falls. With a plethora of mobility equipment available, it can be difficult to know what you need. Care managers at Home Medical Equipment Stores are accredited to assess homes and identify potentially hazardous areas while suggesting solutions. They can be recruited to ass your home and help you with the step-by-step process of making the home safer. We at Stander have put together a Home Safety Assessment, which can be used to evaluate every area of a home and determine whether it is safe for an older adult. Our Safety Assessment will also help identify tasks around the home that are difficult to perform and offers up our recommended products to provide assistance in these areas. You can find the Home Safety Evaluation here.

 

Staying Active and Social: For older people to thrive while aging in place, methods will need to be put into place to help one be active and social. Community-building is an integral part of mental health, and emotional stimulation is critical to wellness and longevity. In America, one-third of older adults who are still living at home live alone. Whether it be regular video calls or being part of a gathering group, finding ways for frequent social interaction should be a high priority.

It’s safe to say that as older generations grow and diversify, so do their needs. How living and care facilities react to COVID-19 and adjust remain to be unseen, but one thing can be for certain: more seniors are opting for less-traditional care and choosing to remain at home. Many concerns can accompany aging in place, but being prepared with a dynamic plan will ease anxieties and make the latter-years of one’s life safe, familiar, and comfortable.


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