It’s essential to pay attention to needed physical changes in a home – which sometimes are as simple as moving kitchen utensils to be within easy reach. But it’s also important to look beyond handrails in the hallways to make sure needs are met that allow older people to live independently.
1. Do a “Safe- Home Assessment.”
A home that once felt like a refuge might become a hazard zone for the frail and elderly. Specific areas to watch include:
- Kitchens, where burns and cuts are common to those with slowed reactions.
- Bathrooms, where wet surfaces lead to slips and falls.
- Hallways, where clutter, rugs, and runners may become obstructions.
Proceed with caution and a bit of healthy skepticism before making pricey structural changes, as a great number of companies have sprung up hawking “fixes,” from smoke detectors to wholesale home renovations.
2. Get Help With Meals.
For many older people, waning energy and appetites make it more difficult or just less interesting to prepare nutritious meals.
- Grocery shopping and delivery. For those who prefer to make at least some meals at home, a growing number of stores deliver groceries for a small fee. And some community groups and services offer free or low-cost grocery shopping services, either with or without the senior along.
- Onsite dining. For people who crave a little sociability along with their food, a number of organizations offer meal and nutrition programs on site. Local options may include senior centers and community groups, religious organizations, and adult daycare centers.
- Meal delivery services. Programs offering free or low-cost meals to older adults in need include Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, religious groups, and community service groups.
3. Provide Companionship and Monitoring.
“In-home care” ranges from free help from volunteers who make periodic social visits to regular help with chores and daily medication management to around-the-clock monitoring. Hiring outside help, often people with special training and sensitivities, can prevent caregivers who are family members or close friends from burning out or getting in over their heads. And, ironically, many older people are more willing to accept this type of help from outsiders.
4. Arrange for Transportation.
Many people complain that one of the worst aspects of aging occurs when they’re forced to lose or limit their driving privileges. Beyond inconvenience, it can contribute to missed medical appointments, a loss of autonomy, and isolation.
- Family, friends, and neighbors. Some volunteers will provide rides, although it may be wise to compensate them with small monetary payments or more informally with gas cards or restaurant gift certificates to keep the arrangement more businesslike.
- Senior transport and rideshare services. Some community, religious, and nonprofit groups that provide services enabling seniors to age in the community also offer free or low-cost transportation to those who qualify. Your local Area Agency on Aging should be able to provide referrals.
- Medical transport services. Some clinics and hospitals offer transportation to those receiving treatments. Contact the particular clinic or hospital involved.
- Veterans’ transport services. The Veterans Health Administration offers limited transportation services to those receiving care, usually originating from central spots within the community. Find contact information for a particular veteran’s facility through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Paratransit services. These services generally offer cars, vans, or buses for individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently because of physical or mental impairments. The American Public Transportation Association provides links to many local and state transit services.