Have your parents told you that they want to stay in their own home, no matter what?

They’re not alone. Older people have an overwhelming desire to continue to live independently in the community – control, personal autonomy, flexibility and lifestyle choices are paramount.

Currently, 3 in 4 Australians aged 85 and over live in private dwellings. This is expected to increase over time, as the Housing Decisions of Older Australians report released in late 2015 found over three-quarters of Australians aged over 60 years indicated that they want to grow old in their own homes and 83% viewed home ownership as vital to maintaining independence in old age.

Ageing in place is possible with proper planning, preparation and communication. To help your parents age in place safely, we recommend the following strategies:

1. Communicate with your parents

Talking about growing older can be a sensitive issue. As such, discussing the topic of ageing and the changes that can come with it can be difficult and uncomfortable for children. However, communicating about your parents’ wishes and implementing a plan of action will support their wish to age at home.

Let your parents know that you want to understand what is important to them as they age and ensure that they feel heard and respected. Similarly, let your parents know that you want to be able to discuss your concerns should they arise.

Keeping the gates of communication open with your parents will help you plan for their care and ensure that your choices not only reflect their needs but also their wants.

2. Address safety concerns in the home

Even though our homes are safe and familiar environments, they can still present several hazards and safety risks, especially for older adults.

In Australia, 7 out of 10 people aged 65 and over are hospitalised for a fall-related injury. In fact, complications due to slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation for people aged over 80.

It’s important to discuss with your parents how they plan to address potential hazards in their home. You may suggest ensuring all areas of the home are well lit, removing or repairing tripping hazards such as curled rugs and extension cords, encouraging the use of non-slip footwear and modifying high-risk areas of the home such as the bathroom.

Fires pose a risk to any individual living in their own home. However, being physically impaired or frail due to age can significantly affect one’s ability to escape if a fire were to occur. You can ensure your parents are fire safe by having an adequate number of appropriate smoke alarms installed and tested regularly. You may also consider discussing the importance of never leaving cooking unattended or smoking in bed – two common causes of residential fires.

3. Combat social isolation and loneliness

Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health. People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness.

Talk to your parent about a plan to ensure they stay connected with others while they live independently at home. You might consider enlisting the help of family, friends, community members or home care organisations like My Care Solution to participate in social activities like cooking and eating meals together, social outings, shopping and other hobbies.

4. Consider home care options

Acknowledging the need for help is not an easy thing. The act of accepting help is often accompanied by feeling a loss of independence, so it is very important to retain your parent’s dignity throughout this process. Research the providers in your parents’ living area and arrange meetings with at least 3 different providers to ensure your family finds the most suitable one.

To ease your parent in to the idea of care, you may wish to start with the caregiver accompanying you and your parent to a doctor’s appointment or a coffee date. Taking these small steps will let your parent become accustomed to assistance from someone other than you.

If you have a loved one in need of home care services, book a complimentary care consultation with My Care Solution today. My Care Solution provides quality in-home care and support services to help older people across Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula live independently.

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