Help Your Elderly Parents Stay in Their Own Home
Growing Older in the USA
Your aging parents, like so many others today, have decided they would like to stay in their own home as long as possible - and possibly through the natural end of their lives. As our country ages this is a growing trend. More and more people are opting to remain in their own homes rather than move into assisted living facilities or nursing homes for necessary care. The good news is that while it may be a little bit of a challenge to manage, with some help and guidance, you can help your aging parents stay in their own home.
Trends in Aging
- The fastest growing segment of the US population today is the 85-94 year old age group.
- The population of those who are age 65 and over has increased by 30% in the last 10 years.
- The population group of those 65 and over is expected to increase from 35 million in 2000 to 71 million in 2030 when the Baby Boomers reach age 65.
- Many older Americans suffer from chronic illnesses.
- More and more aging Americans want to remain in their own homes.
Benefits of Helping Your Parents Stay in Their Own Home
Probably the biggest benefit of remaining in their own home for your parents is their happiness. After all, home is where the heart is. This is the place where we are all most comfortable. For your parents, they have their favorite chairs; they like to have coffee in a special place in the house; they have control over their normal routine. Home is personal. It is not a "home like" environment. So, your parents are happiest at home.
Other benefits of remaining in their own home include the following:
- Privacy (important to all of us) can be maintained;
- There are fewer safety issues to manage because your parents are familiar with their home;
- Normal family life (including extended family) remains normal;
- Your parents can keep their pets;
- The costs of providing care in the home are far less than institutionalization; and,
- The risks of acquiring infections and other illnesses through exposure are minimized.
Medical Care at Home
Challenges of Helping Your Parents Stay in Their Own Home
While home is the best place for your parents to be, some challenges will be encountered along the way. It is important to acknowledge some of the difficulties that could be experienced while caring for your parents at home. Some challenges are described here and should be carefully considered.
- Some adult children live far from their parents and have to coordinate care from afar.
- Some families struggle with the financial burden or limited resources.
- Adult children living near their parents will have to adjust time spent between their own needs and managing the needs of their parents.
- There may be times when your parents require your presence or that of another caregiver overnight for days at a time.
- Adult children may experience lost work time and with that loss of income.
- Home modifications may be necessary.
- You may experience caregiver burnout.
Basic Safety for Your Elderly Parents
Basic safety tips for your parent's are:
- Keep all hallways and pathways free of clutter;
- Remove throw rugs and electrical cords from walkways;
- Be sure smoke alarms are functioning;
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the home at all times;
- Place a rubber mat in the bathtub or shower to prevent falls;
- Remove old food from the refrigerator as needed;
- Manage medications with a weekly pillbox or other medication dispensing device;
- Schedule regular vision and hearing exams to prevent accidents from auditory or visual sources;
- Have a method of communicating in the event of emergency (phone, 911, medical alert device).
Home Delivery Services Can be Helpful
While your parents are still able to perform many of their daily duties on their own, the assistance of home delivered services can be very helpful. You will want to explore which types of home delivered services are available in the community. Some typical providers of home delivery are:
- grocers; and,
- meals on wheels.
Give Medications Safely
Sit and Stand with Ease
Medical Alert Systems and Other Devices Useful for the Elderly
When your elderly parents need a little more support in the home you will need to consider using a medical device or two. Some of the most common and helpful medical devices are:
- Medical Alert System - This system works through the phone line. Your parents will have a button to wear on a necklace or bracelet that they can push in the event they need medical assistance.
- Automatic Medication Dispensing System - These units can be filled once weekly and can automatically dispense medications up to 4 different times per day. The unit sounds an alarm when a dose of medication is dispensed. This is a great reminder for parents who may be forgetful about their medications. Some systems can also connect to the phone system and a call can be made to remind your parents to take their medication and check on them as well.
- Lift Chair - Many elderly people develop the habit of rocking when trying to get up from sitting in an easy chair. A lift chair is a mechanical recliner chair that can slowly rise from sitting to standing and lower from standing to sitting. This is a great strength saver and prevents falls as well.
- Walker - A walker provides support for someone who is unsteady on their feet or who walks through the home while holding on to furniture and walls. Walkers are safer than canes as they provide balanced body support.
- Handicap Accessible Bathroom - This is a must for your elderly parents living at home. See my step by step guide on this topic for more information.
Finding Resources to Help Care for Your Parents at Home
Let's say your parents have reached a point that they need more assistance at home. Maybe they need help bathing, housekeeping, and some meal preparation on a regular basis. This is the point that an in home caregiver is needed. But where do you find such a person?
There are many ways to find an in home caregiver. Some people prefer to place a classified ad and interview and select the caregiver on their own. Others may prefer to work through a home care agency that has these caregivers trained and available.
Other community organizations that can help you are your doctor, local hospital, Area Agency on Aging, your pastor, home health agencies, and hospices.
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Getting Medical Care At Home for Your Parents
Medical care at home is usually started when your parents need more that just support in the home. Now they need the services of a nurse, possibly physician house calls, and coordination of services. This is the time to consider home health care or hospice.
Home health care and hospice can provide skilled nursing at home. This means medications, necessary treatments as well as bathing and dressing will all be supervised by a nurse. Both services provide a nurse on call 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. A social worker will now be involved to help with insurance and with finding other available community resources. Hospice can provide volunteers who serve as companions, may run errands, or relieve a weary caregiver.
If your parents are in need of more than help with bathing and dressing, speak to your doctor about home health care and hospice. A prescription will be required for either service, and both are paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. Medicaid may only be available for these services in some states, and private insurance benefits will vary from policy to policy. Take a look at my article on home health care and hospice for more information.
Once the doctor has prescribed home health care or hospice, you will be asked to choose which care agency you would like to have provide the services. The doctor's office will then notify the agency. The agency will then contact you to begin home care services.
How to Pay for Care at Home
Depending on the nature of the care your parents need, it is possible that some or all of the costs could be covered by insurance. Most long term care insurance policies provide coverage for in home care services. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance may pay for home health care or hospice. Your local Area Agency on Aging may have funds available to help financially as well. Of course, paying privately for services is always an option.
Determining how to pay for care provided at home may be challenging depending on available insurance and funds. I encourage all caregivers to ask questions and check out all available community resources. Caring for your aging parents does not have to cost a fortune, and there may be abundant resources available.
More About Home Care Resources
- What to Prepare for a Doctor Visit
To make the most of a doctor visit we must get prepared. It is important to know what questions we have, what changes we would like in our care plan, and what choices we have.
- How to Equip a Handicap Accessible Bathroom
A handicap accessible bathroom is necessary for an aging or disabled person to remain safely in their own home. This is a step by step guide to creating a handicap accessible bathroom in any home.
- How to Choose Home Health Care or Hospice
Home health care focuses on healing and recovery while hospice focuses on comforting the terminally ill. Understanding the goals of medical treatment is vital to choosing either type of care.
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