One fact of life you cannot escape is that everyone is going to grow older. That includes your parents. One day, you may wake up and realize they have moved from middle-aged to elderly. To help your parents remain independent for as long as possible, you need to start thinking long-term about living at home independently, staying safe outside the house, taking care of legalities, and staying engaged socially. Addressing them when they are in good health will make later decisions easier for them to handle.
Surveys and studies consistently show that most seniors want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. How do you make it happen? Look at their current home. Is their current home a good idea? Many seniors live in large homes that worked for a young family. Downsizing to a condo or a smaller house can ease financial pressures and keep housekeeping to a minimum. Whether they stay in the same home or go to a new one, safety is always a concern. Does the home have safety issues? Seniors have different needs. Install grab bars in the shower and tub. Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors if not already there. For multiple-story homes, consider adding a stair lift to help them get up and down the stairs safely.
Safety outside the home setting is just as important as safety inside the house. One looming issue in most families is the driving question. At what point should the senior give up driving? Behind living in their own homes, most seniors cling to their driving as a way to stay independent. Parents will resist this as long as possible. Eventually though, the senior may need to hang up the car keys. Medications is another area of concern. Be sure you know who your parents’ doctors are and what medications they are taking. Ask the pharmacist periodically to make sure there are no medication conflicts.
Financial and legal issues need addressed when your parents are in good mental health. While parents are often reluctant to discuss their finances, their children should gently work to get information from them. As parents age, expenses begin to grow in new ways. In some cases, bringing in a home health aide is necessary. Elder day care is another consideration. Discussing this early will give parents and children time to handle the financial side. Children need to persuade their parents to do a durable power of attorney. To safeguard their finances, an independent third-party should watch the situation to prevent fraud.
Keeping socially connected can help seniors remain happier and healthier for longer. The wisdom of time can come in handy when a person retires. There are tons of volunteer organizations who know the knowledge a senior can bring. Senior Corps is one. For seniors who are living alone, eating solo is often depressing. Taking meals at a senior center can help them see people and get good nutrition at the same time. Even if the senior no longer can drive, it is important they have options in getting around. Public transportation, bicycles, and motorized chairs are great for keeping them going.
The best way to help your parents remain independent is to talk to them while they are healthy. This can lay the foundation for tough discussions later on. For more information about home health care click here.