Home Care for Seniors
According to a 2014 study completed by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), 80% of respondents wanted to age in their homes instead of moving to an assisted living or continued care facility. Considering there will be an estimated 73 million seniors ages 65 and older in America by 2030, this represents a very large number of the national population. Luckily, now more than ever, senior care trends are moving towards supporting the elderly in this endeavor.
So what can seniors do in order to make continuing to live at home possible? A combination of proper nutrition, regular exercise, socialization, mobility and accessibility upgrades, home-based aid, and home-based medical care are the keys to making this happen. There are many benefits of staying at home for seniors, so it is vital to take the necessary steps in order to make it possible:
Proper Nutrition- Receiving proper nutrition is of utmost importance to maintain health in order to be able to live at home. If a senior is having trouble cooking meals on their own, having an occupational therapist come in to teach them tricks to work within the confines of certain medical conditions is a helpful option. For example, if a senior has arthritis and finds chopping fruits and vegetables quite painful, an occupational therapist can help come up with certain solutions or substitutions that the senior might not have thought of on their own. If extensive cooking doesn’t seem like a possibility at all anymore, try look into services such as Meals on Wheels, or, other local community and religious center food organizations that can help deliver hot, nutritious meals to right to seniors’ doors. Alternatively, some senior centers may also have eating together programs. Be sure to contact your local Office on Aging for various offerings. In terms of nutritional information, the National Institute on Aging provides a resource called, “What’s on your plate?”, which provides practical and important nutrition information for older adults. The National Agricultural Library and the US Department of Agriculture are also helpful resources on nutrition information by providing dietary fact sheets, information on food assistance programs, and food safety tips.
Regular Exercise- Regular exercise is necessary for maintaining seniors’ physical and mental health. Even if they are just going out for walk in their neighborhood to get some fresh air, it has immense health benefits. For more exciting exercise offerings try checking out the local senior center or religious center for other activities such as swimming, shuffleboard, lawn games, aerobics, etc. Anything to get seniors moving and active within their physical capabilities is good for them. For motivation, information, and other fitness resources visit the National Institute of Health, NIH Senior Health, and Elder Gym.
Socialization- Continuing to socialize is of great importance for cognitive function for people as they age. The wonderful part about seniors staying in the neighborhood in which they already live means greater age diversity. Samuel Durso, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center believes interaction with a large age range only helps patients, “Evidence supports that people who have social networks age better, and those who tend to be the most successful are those who have family and friends, including young friends, with whom they interact.” In fact, Michelle Carlson, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, completed a study where retired seniors were placed as volunteers in schools through programs such as Experience Corps. Over time, as the volunteers built relationships with young students, their brain biomarkers increased, suggesting that the mental stimulation of interacting with younger people may actually reverse parts of the brain aging process. Therefore by continuing to live at home and keeping up with built in neighborhood social networks such as volunteering, attending religious services, participating in hobbies, being part of community organizations, etc., the cognitive functions of an aging brain can actually be improved, whereas this is not necessarily the case living exclusively with other seniors. Senior Corps is a national program providing information and resources regarding volunteerism for seniors. You may also want to check out National Center for Creative Aging. Some states may also have technology assistance to those who have developed disabilities or conditions that impair engagement. Maryland’s resource is MDTAP which can be reached by calling 1-800-832-4827, or, by visiting their website.
Mobility and Accessibility Upgrades- Keeping up with mobility and accessibility around the home can help to prevent accidents. Free fixes, such as de-cluttering, are easy and make more room for movement in hallways and storage spaces. Other simple items, such as adding better lighting, putting in an extra hand-rail on steps to aid with balance, or, attaching pull chain extenders on ceiling fans, can all help prevent falls while allowing a senior to stay in their home. Try contacting a certified aging-in-place specialist that can come to your home, analyze your specific situation, and suggest certain fixes that will allow for preventative care and more independence. If you have a long term care insurance policy, there may even be some home modifications that can be reimbursed, such as a stair lift.
Home-Based Aid- Home-based aid is a great option if a senior is medically healthy but needs help with basic tasks such as bathing, eating, dressing, and walking. Having a home health aid stop by even a few times a week can allow a senior to stay at home when they wouldn’t be able to on their own otherwise. A home health care only policy and comprehensive long term care policies will provide coverage for home care. Read the definitions of caregiver in your policy before contracting for care.
Home Based Medical Care- In today’s day and age, home-based medical care where nurses and doctors make house calls is becoming more and more common again. Besides general practice care for things like colds and flues, certain acute medical conditions can even be treated at home these days such a pneumonia and heart disease. This type of care prevents seniors from ending up the in the hospital, which can complicate certain health conditions or even add on new ones.
Overall, aging at home is the popular choice for most Americans. Benefits include the comfort of a familiar setting, maintaining independence, and the cognitive improvement that comes with keeping company with people of diverse ages. However, in order to maintain senior health while living at home, certain precautions must be met. If you are unsure about the costs that are involved with aging at home, try speaking with a long-term care professional. Many long-term care insurance plans have at-home care options. For information on how to use insurance to pay for at home benefits or long term care services, check out www.baygroupinsurance.com or call 410-557-7907. Local organizations such as GAIN, MSRN, and Life Planning Resources are also good resources to explore as they have professionals who provide services to seniors in Baltimore County, Harford County, and other jurisdictions in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Making sure seniors are receiving proper nutrition, regularly exercising, socializing, have mobility and accessibility upgrades, and home-based health aide or medical care if needed, will all make aging at home a very realistic, and happy, possibility.
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