“The stairs are getting so hard to climb.
“Since my wife died, I just open a can of soup for dinner.
“I’ve lived here 40 years. No other place will seem like home.
These are common issues for older people. You may share the often-heard wish—“I want to stay in my own home!” The good news is that with the right help you might be able to do just that. Staying in your own home as you get older is called “aging in place.” This article contains suggestions to help you find the help you need to continue to live independently.
Planning ahead is hard because you never know how your needs might change. The first step is to think about the kinds of help you might want in the near future. Maybe you live alone, so there is no one living in your home who is available to help you. Maybe you don’t need help right now, but you live with a spouse or family member who does. Everyone has a different situation.
One way to begin planning is to look at any illnesses, like diabetes or emphysema, that you or your spouse might have. Talk with your doctor about how these health problems could make it hard for someone to get around or take care of him- or herself in the future. If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, learn how you can get them the support they need to stay in their own home.
What Support Can Help Me Stay at Home?
You can get almost any type of help you want in your home—often for a cost. You can get more information on many of the services listed here from your local Area Agency on Aging , local and State offices on aging or social services, tribal organization, or nearby senior center.
Personal care. Is bathing, washing your hair, or dressing getting harder to do? Maybe a relative or friend could help. Or, you could hire a trained aide for a short time each day.
Household chores. Do you need help with chores like housecleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, or laundry? Some grocery stores and drug stores will take your order over the phone and bring the items to your home. There are cleaning and yard services you can hire, or maybe someone you know has a housekeeper or gardener to suggest. Some housekeepers will help with laundry. Some drycleaners will pick up and deliver your clothes.
Meals. Worried that you might not be eating nutritious meals or tired of eating alone? Sometimes you could share cooking with a friend or have a potluck dinner with a group of friends. Find out if meals are served at a nearby senior center or house of worship. Eating out may give you a chance to visit with others. Is it hard for you to get out? Ask someone to bring you a healthy meal a few times a week. Meal delivery programs bring hot meals into your home; some of these programs are free or low-cost.
Money management. Do you worry about paying bills late or not at all? Are health insurance forms confusing? Maybe you can get help with these tasks. Ask a trusted relative to lend a hand. Volunteers, financial counselors, or geriatric care managers can also help. Just make sure you get the referral from a trustworthy source, like your local Area Agency on Aging. If you use a computer, you could pay your bills online. Check with your bank about this option. Some people have regular bills, like utilities and rent or mortgage, paid automatically from their checking account.
Be careful to avoid money scams. Never give your Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, or other sensitive information to someone on the phone (unless you placed the call) or in response to an email. Always check all bills, including utility bills, for charges you do not recognize.
Even though you might not need it now, think about giving someone you trust permission to discuss your bills with creditors or your Social Security or Medicare benefits with those agencies. Learn more about legal and financial planning for older adults.
Health care. Do you forget to take your medicine? There are devices available to remind you when it is time for your next dose. Special pill boxes allow you or someone else to set out your pills for an entire week. Have you just gotten out of the hospital and still need nursing care at home for a short time? The hospital discharge planner can help you make arrangements, and Medicare might pay for a home health aide to come to your home.
If you can’t remember what the doctor told you to do, try to have someone go to your doctor visits with you. Ask them to write down everything you are supposed to do or, if you are by yourself, ask the doctor to put all recommendations in writing.
Be Prepared for a Medical Emergency
If you were to suddenly become sick and unable to speak for yourself, you probably would want someone who knows you well to decide on your medical care. To make sure this happens, think about giving someone you trust permission to discuss your health care with your doctor and make necessary decisions. Learn about healthcare advance directives. Talk with your doctor about whether you should get a medical alert ID bracelet or necklace.
Aging in Place: Common Concerns
If staying in your home is important to you, you may still have concerns about safety, getting around, or other activities of daily life. Find suggestions below to help you think about some of these worries.
Getting around—at home and in town. Are you having trouble walking? Perhaps a walker would help. If you need more, think about getting an electric chair or scooter. These are sometimes covered by Medicare. Do you need someone to go with you to the doctor or shopping? Volunteer escort services may be available. If you are no longer driving a car, find out if there are free or low-cost public transportation and taxis in your area. Maybe a relative, friend, or neighbor would take you along when they go on errands or do yours for you. To learn about resources in your community, contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free) or www.eldercare.gov.
Activities and friends. Are you bored staying at home? Your local senior center offers a variety of activities. You might see friends there and meet new people too. Is it hard for you to leave your home? Maybe you would enjoy visits from someone. Volunteers are sometimes available to stop by or call once a week. They can just keep you company, or you can talk about any problems you are having. Call your local Area Agency on Aging to see if they are available near you.