Are you an adult child of parents (or a parent) who want to age in place — who don’t want to leave their home? Are you concerned because you are not sure if this is the best option for them? You’re definitely far from alone. As we’ve mentioned before, about 90 percent of Americans 65 and older wish to live out their golden years in their home for as long as possible. But few realize what it really takes to safely age in their home
Parents may be in denial about their inevitable decline, or they may not be open to the role reversal between parent and adult child or they may just be stubborn and set in their ways. Regardless of the reason, starting a conversation about aging in place can be difficult but it’s very important to help avoid potential problems and map out solutions for the future.
Can the Home Accommodate Your Aging Parent?
“The first thing to know is it is difficult to age in place if your home isn’t suitable for it,” says Bode Hennegan, founder and president of Life Managers & Associates. “The majority of the U.S. housing market was built before 1980 and houses were not made for people living longer lives and living for many years with diminished physical and or cognitive capacity like they can now.”
That’s not to say that modifications can’t make the home more accessible and some can be minor. But often what’s required in older homes are renovations that take time and money and can be a major disruption in a person’s life. Many home solutions have very different price points and may appeal to different people’s needs, budget and tastes. All of these variables can make it overwhelming and stressful for adult children and their parents to plan for aging in place. So, understandably, many just avoid the topic altogether, which is problematic.
The Conversation’s Ripple Effect
But by bravely starting the conversation with your parents, it can illuminate other things to consider for them to age in place. For example, think about if a parent’s bedroom or the only bathroom in the home is upstairs. How do you plan for the time when a parent can no longer navigate steps? For the time being, it may make sense to install a handrail on either side of the steps.
But if they were to fall and break a hip, how would they get upstairs?
One of the simplest solutions is to install a chairlift. These can be quickly and easily installed. The track for the chairlift lays on one side of the steps and narrows the stairwell. Whether it is the room, the aesthetics or the cost, this may not be an option that your parents want.
Exploring other options could include relocating the bedroom, a first floor and building a first-floor bathroom, or installing an elevator. But these take extra time and money and construction can be stressful to live through. Plus, they’re not something that can be done easily with a broken hip!
Whatever option they might consider, that first hypothetical conversation can open the door for further considerations and conversations. Other living situations to think about might include:
- Where is the laundry located? If it is not in an accessible location, should it be moved? If moving it is not an option, would the parent be open to having help in the house to assist with these tasks?
- But what if a parent needs a wheelchair down the line, will the doorways as well as the kitchen and bathrooms be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair? Or will this be a nonissue because your parent envisions having outside help at that point?
- When will they begin to relinquish responsibilities for the household tasks that are required to maintain the home?
- How will they handle transportation when they stop driving? Who or what will get them where they need to go?
Home Assessment Package
Still, you might be wondering if there is a practical and more objective way to help plan for your parents’ aging in place?
Luckily, there is and we’re here to help. By having a neutral party evaluate the suitability of your parent’s home for aging in place, it creates a simple way to start the conversation. Our Assess Your Home package identifies the potential obstacles and provides modification options and cost estimates for each — all of which become a tool for conversations and decision making.
This home assessment is conducted by our National Association of Home Builders Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) who will thoroughly review the home and identify the modification options to support your parents as they age there.
Plan for the Future
With all the information the assessment provides, some families will be able to have peace of mind with parents staying in their home knowing that they have a sound plan for aging in place. Still, others might realize they shouldn’t stay in their home because of their particular situation, whether it’s for the impracticality of the home, financial reasons or perhaps the desire to be closer to family members or to be in a community that provides continuous care.
“It’s not an easy conversation to have with our parents because it is a topic full of emotion. But we’ve found our Assess Your Home package is a powerful tool to start the conversation because it provides facts about the particulars of the house, and it’s not wrapped up in the emotion of the situation. Focusing on objective, detailed information opens the door to begin this important decision-making process,” Bode explains.
Life Managers & Associates supports older individuals as a surrogate family member with the administrative and organizational responsibilities required to age in place. As a trusted member of their team, we help families feel safe and supported — alleviating stress for all.