Growing Older at Home
Long term care plan
“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. This article contains suggestions to help you find the help you need to continue to live independently, aging in your home.
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 them 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.
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 health insurance. 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 about Access Calgary using buses and taxis, or public transit in your area. Maybe a relative, friend, or neighbour would take you along when they go on errands or do yours for you.
ACTIVITIES AND FRIENDS Are you bored staying at home? Your local community centre 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.
SAFETY Are you worried about crime in your neighbourhood, physical abuse, or losing money as a result of a scam? Talk to your family or healthcare provider on ways to stay safe. If you live alone, are you afraid of becoming sick with no one around to help? You might want to get an emergency alert system. You just push a special button that you wear, and emergency medical personnel are called. There is typically a monthly fee for this service.
HOUSING Would a few changes make your home easier and safer to live in? Think about things like a ramp at the front door, grab bars in the tub or shower, nonskid floors, more comfortable handles on doors or faucets, and better insulation. Sound expensive? You might be able to get help paying for these changes. Check with your health insurance, AISH, community development groups, or the Provincial and Federal Government.
HELP DURING THE DAY Do you need care but live with someone who can’t stay with you during the day? For example, maybe they work. Adult day programs outside the home are sometimes available for older people who need help caring for themselves. These programs can arrange to pick you up and bring you home.
An important part of planning is thinking about how you are going to pay for the help you need. Some things you want may cost a lot, others may be free. Some might be covered by Alberta Health Servies or others through your health insurance, some may not. Check with your insurance provider to see what you could be eligible for. It’s possible that paying for a few services out of pocket could cost less than moving into independent living, assisted living, or long-term care facility. All of these resources can help you achieve staying in your home longer and keeping your independence. Allowing you to make more memories with what brings you joy and with those you love.
WHAT SUPPORT CAN HELP
You can get almost any type of help you want in your home—often for a price. You can get more information on many of the services listed here from Alberta Health Services, community centres, social services, or friends and family.
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 dry cleaners 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 community centres. 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. Just make sure you get the referral from a trustworthy source. 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 health benefits with those agencies.
HEALTHCARE 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 your health insurance provider 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. Talk with your doctor about whether you should get a medical alert ID bracelet or necklace and discuss with them how to appoint your personal health directive.
WHERE TO LOOK FOR HELP
Here are some resources to start with:
PEOPLE YOU KNOW Family, friends, and neighbours are the biggest source of help for many older people. Talk with those close to you about the best way to get what you need. If you are physically able, think about trading services with a friend or neighbour. One could do the grocery shopping, and the other could cook dinner, for example.
COMMUNITY Learn about the services in your community and your local government. Healthcare providers and social workers may have suggestions. If you belong to a religious group, talk with the clergy, or check with its local office about any senior services they offer.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The Federal Government offers many resources for seniors. The Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network is a networking group of health care providers, managers, researchers, policymakers and care-givers that all focus on seniors care and who have come together with seniors and family members to support Alberta’s aging population. Which is a great place to find resources on aging in place!