Whether you’re a senior citizen or a caregiver helping a senior, at some point you have to face the decision of whether independent living at one’s own home is still the best option. The “theory” behind aging in place is that if you remain “at home in your own home” you will be happier, healthier and experience joy at not having to relocate and move away from all that is familiar and comfortable to you. Admittedly, we become very attached to our homes as they represent our independence, they contain many memories and they offer stability. But as good as all of that sounds, there are also very valid reasons as to why this may not be a good choice.
First, and foremost, is whether or not the structure you live in is a safe place or can be renovated to be a safe place for your changing level of mobility. Lurking around the corner are shifts to our minds and bodies that may require us to think ahead and plan for these inevitable “bumps” in the road of life. There are innumerable alterations and modifications that can be accomplished in our home to accommodate potential vision, hearing, balance, memory or any of the other myriad of physiological differences we may undergo. But along with such changes come important questions such as:
Can you afford it?
Would the renovations cost more than moving to a “safer” residence?
How would you pay for it?
How will you maintain your home if you remain (mowing, shoveling, repairs)?
Are there so many stairs that it would be dangerous? (Can you only live on the first floor?
Is the neighborhood one you want to remain in? Is it safe? Is it changing?
What will changes do to the value of the home? Are they so specific as to exclude a specific buyer in the future?
Do you have reliable family members? If not, do you have a reliable caregiver?
What are you sacrificing to remain where you are?
Are there services, amenities or activities that you could be missing out on if you remain?
There are many more questions, but I think you get the basic picture. The decision on whether or not your home can fulfill your needs is a crucial question to ask yourself when debating this decision.
Along with the importance of the safety of the structure is consideration of health. You may now already be experiencing health issues that may make it unsafe for you to remain in your home as you age. Even though we cannot predict the future, we know already that it may be necessary for us to seek outside help in assisting us in caring for ourselves if we remain at home. Are those types of services available to you in the community where you live? Can you afford them?
For example, overactive bladder (OAB) or urinary incontinence can become a problem as we age and it can have a profound impact on our quality of life. For some, it can even cause them to become isolated, can interfere with work and daily activities and can generally make life difficult. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Products specifically designed to manage OAB and incontinence, such as Wearever incontinence panties and incontinence briefs, can be delivered right to your home and bring you great peace of mind. The profound advances in absorbent technology have made incontinence underwear a popular choice for protection and providing the ability to live a stress-free life. Of course, caregivers can assist you in managing these conditions as well.
Another question is if you remain in your home, can you get to your health care providers if you cannot drive? And, when you can no longer drive, do you have someone who can transport you? Public transportation, in some communities, is not at a level where it is available to seniors who remain in their homes. And although private neighborhood transportation may be available (such as a pick-up services), is there a fee involved? If this piece of the “aging puzzle” is missing, then perhaps remaining in your home is not a good choice for you. Having transportation ensures that you will be able to continue your social activities, take classes, attend events and church, and stay involved in life! This is a very valuable part of successful aging.
While remaining in our homes seems intuitively like a very positive thing, there are an endless amount of issues that need to be taken into consideration. And it may just be that relocating to a place that better suits your needs may be your best choice after all.
If you are a caregiver or a concerned family member, I encourage you to ask yourself these very same questions when deciding whether or not it is time to consider your loved one leaving home. While it is often ultimately the senior’s decision, you too have to come to grips with the reality of the situation and figure out what is best for the one you love.
About Dr. Jill M. Bjerke: Dr. Jill Bjerke is the founder and president of Cut the Clutter Company, LLC and its division, Aging in Place with Grace. Cut the Clutter focuses on customized organizing solutions and services for those wishing to downsize, eliminate clutter and create clean and simple living spaces. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, she created Aging in Place with Grace as a source of information and services for those wanting to determine if staying in their own home as they age is the right decision for them. Dr. Bjerke’s background as a health care physician, business executive and community leader has shaped the way downsizing and aging in place is perceived.