Most elderly want to remain home, to age in place. Now, amid Covid-19, staying home has become an imperative. Untold seniors have survived this pandemic as a result of remaining sheltered in their own homes. The safest place. With the world highlighting the focus on safety for our most vulnerable population, it’s an ideal time to dig deeper into strategies for long term comprehensive home wellness. We have applied these principles for twenty years at CareFor which makes this so much more than theoretical. We live it every day.
- Step one is a Professional Assessment. By utilizing a clinician, experienced in the field of aging, landmines can be identified, and the path cleared. It’s easy to find a vetted aging professional in your geographic area on the Aging Life Care Association website.
- Resource Evaluation. Even if the older individual is now healthy and independent, the inevitable decline will occur. What will be the human and financial resources available when more is needed? Is it possible for family to immediately put their life on hold and meet the parental needs? Are financial resources available as more funding is required? Honesty and guidance from a professional can be the difference between a real or fantasy plan.
- Home Environment & Maintenance. Safeguards may need to be implemented so the home is physically safe from falls. An emergency call alert can avoid disasters. Setting up services for cleaning, food delivery, repairs, and maintenance can keep the home more livable.
- Medical Management. The number one reason aging in place fails is due to a change in health status. Occasionally, changes can come out of the blue, but most are easily anticipated by professional ongoing observation. Subtle changes can indicate the need for a doctor visit, lab tracking, or medication management. An elderly person, regulating their own medications, can carry a significant risk. When a professional coordinates conflicting doctor’s orders, refills, and med box setup, stability is enhanced. 24/7 on-call is critical to spot problems as they occur and apply solutions.
- Legal Documents Completed. Completed documents are a critical element to elder management. Power of Attorney, Directive to Physician, and HIPPA Release are essential to be able to obtain information urgently and to have a legal voice in care decisions.
- Personal Care. Implementing a home companion for personal care begins the process of support that can be maintained over time and adjusted as needed. Although the start can be uncomfortable for some, caregivers often become the “difference-makers.”
- Social Support. With a comprehensive plan in place, family then has the peace of mind to fully step into the role that nobody else can fill: family for quality of life and connectivity.
One last thought: Every patient is unique, each plan individualized. And plans evolve over time. There is never a guarantee of success. Plan redesign is expected for this marathon. Giving yourself grace along the way is the salve of sanity.
Debbie Pearon, RN