Remaining in Your Home as You Age

ARE YOU PLANNING TO STAY IN YOUR OWN HOME as you grow older? Are you finding it difficult to manage some tasks in your home? Has your family and friends shared concerns about you living alone?

As part of the aging process, abilities diminish, assistance or changes may be required to sustain your independence safely at home. An Occupational Therapist will work with you to ensure that the recommendations to increase independence and safety are specific to your wants and needs, skills, environment, budget, and other criteria. The following tips come from occupational therapy practitioners who work with older adults to help them stay in their homes.

If you want to: Consider these activity tips: An Occupational Therapy practitioner offers expertise to:

Be safe and independent in your home.

Think honestly about the things you are having trouble with, and ask for a helping hand when possible. You may be able to swap out favors with your neighbors (e.g., offer to sign for packages if they work during the day in exchange for help changing light bulbs in hard-to-reach places).

Hire out regular cleaning and lawn care, arrange for Meals on Wheels, etc.

Provide an in-home evaluation to assess your skills, abilities, and safety, and provide suggestions that are tailored to your needs and reassure your family members.

Get to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and social events.

If you’re concerned about your driving skills, consider asking a friend or neighbor to provide a ride whenever possible; offering gas money or a service in return can make this easier.

If you haven’t taken public transportation in the past, you may be surprised at the number of choices there are. Several communities offer a free bus or van to shopping centers or even medical appointments. If you are still driving, consider attending a CarFit event in your community to be sure your vehicle’s adjustments are best fit for you (www.car-fit.org). Avoid driving during rush hour, at night, on busy roads, or in inclement weather.

Consider all the options to help you get around in the community. These may include conducting a driving evaluation with the goal of addressing problem areas so you can drive safely, providing non-driving options for you to get around the community, helping you become comfortable with the public transportation system, etc.

Make changes that will help you live independently and safely.

Remove unnecessary throw rugs to reduce the chances of falling; decrease clutter; repair furniture that isn’t sturdy; keep electrical cords along the walls and away from walking paths and be sure all outlets are grounded; and purchase “universal design” products to simplify use.

Share your schedule with friends and neighbors, and/or set up a regular social event so others will know if something out of the ordinary has happened to you.

Watch you as you do the things you want and need to do, and recommend changes to increase safety, ease, and ability now and in the future. Suggestions may include adding adaptive equipment such as grab bars or stair lifts, lowering counter heights,adding railings, replacing door knobs with lever style handles, widening doorways, etc.

Modify your home on a limited budget.

Explore community-based groups, such as Rebuilding Together, whose volunteers help repair and modify homes for those who can’t afford to do so.

Suggest low-cost equipment and other changes, such as increasing wattage for better lighting, using a reacher to avoid bending over or standing on a stool, using the microwave and not the stove to reduce fire hazards, etc. An Occupational Therapist will also provide training on adaptive equipment to be sure the recommendations are right for you and will be used.

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Need More Information?

If you are interested in having an Occupational Therapist help you stay in your home, ask your physician for a referral. You can also contact an Occupational Therapist in private practice that specialize in home modifications (these individuals may have CAPS or SCEM among their credentials).

If you have had a recent medical change and qualify for home health services, a home health agency will be able to provide an Occupational Therapist. Some Area Agencies on Aging also employ Occupational Therapists to address aging in one’s home.

Links: 
AOTA.org

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