As we get older there comes a point where retaining our independence becomes increasingly difficult. As we, or our loved ones, face these challenges it can be tricky to broach the subject with the important people in our lives, but needing to adapt to a change of circumstances needn’t be something to feel embarrassed about. In fact, taking a few practical steps as we age can make life much more enjoyable and allow us to maintain our autonomy for far longer.
A huge aspect of self-determination can be the wish to stay in our own home. We feel comfortable in our own space, can maintain familiar routines and may have a beloved pet that we wish to stay with, or memories that we wish to stay connected with. We call this “ageing in place”, and there are many resources available to help support this; some geared specifically towards ageing in place, and some you can simply take advantage of! We will look at the different areas of daily life that may require support, and what steps to take to make sure nothing is left to chance!
As we are physically less able to take care of ourselves, personal care becomes one of the first things we may need to address. After all, looking after oneself is crucial for our physical and mental well being. The thought of care in the home can be intimidating but is something that we can introduce on such a small scale and build up as we need it. Considering inviting a carer into our home to help us with the challenges of washing and dressing can alleviate a level of stress from our routine and can offer a great piece of mind. We may choose to seek help in the morning, or the evening, or perhaps both, depending on what support we have from friends and family and what we still feel able to manage alone. You will be surprised how much easier it feels knowing that a friendly and professional caregiver will be there to help get the day started smoothly!
Adapting The Home
Anticipating potential challenges ahead and making adjustments to our home can be a real game changer. Would you benefit from handrails or non-slip flooring? Would a ramp make getting to the front door easier? If the stairs are a challenge we may wish to install a stair lift, or simply consider re-jigging rooms to turn a downstairs study into a bedroom, alleviating the need to go up and down stairs so often. Even little details like a more user-friendly door handle, or a sofa with a higher seat that is easier to get up from can make a huge difference.
A clean home goes hand in hand with our own self-care in terms of our physical and mental health. A carer can help with household chores like cleaning and laundry or we may wish to hire a cleaner to keep on top of things.
Staying mobile is a huge aspect of independence and so we mustn’t be afraid to explore our options. For getting about at home and over smaller distances we may wish to try using a cane or a walker. For going slightly further afield a mobility scooter can be a great option! While many of the things we need can be delivered to our home there are always things to go out for, from doctors appointments to social engagements. If you are no longer comfortable with or able to drive, consider if friends or family making regular trips into town could give you a ride, or explore local public transport, taxi firms or Uber services. With a little organisation and planning, we can benefit from getting out of the house without the worry of whether we can manage on our own; a liberating feeling.
Enter the wonderful world of online shopping and have your groceries delivered to your door! All the large supermarket chains now offer home delivery, making the weekly shop just a few clicks away. You won’t need to worry about transport or carrying bags around any longer!
Help With Pets
Keeping a pet has been shown to greatly benefit the well being of the elderly. Pets offer a fantastic company and keep us engaged and active in a really joyful way. Getting older doesn’t need to mean a pet is no longer practical. Not only can you get your pet food delivered along with your groceries, but there are fantastic services offered for dog walking and animal care. Vets can make home visits should you require their services and a home carer may be able to help with feeding your pet too.
If you are finding preparing food more of a challenge, consider ordering healthful ready-meals (avoiding junk food of course) and explore meal delivery services in your area. Many organisations offer home delivered hot meals for the elderly and some are supported by charities or government schemes. An at-home caregiver can also help with meal preparation, combining many different types of support for greater convenience.
Banking and Bills
As getting to the bank becomes more bothersome, make an appointment with a bank adviser to set things up so that as much as possible is automatic. If you haven’t already, set up your bills on standing orders so they are paid without you worrying about it. Ask for a demo of online banking so you can check your accounts from home. Also, keep in mind that there is an increasing number of money scams targeting the elderly so be extra cautious of fake bills or fraudulent letters about unrealistic cash prizes or strangers asking for help. Ask your bank adviser to tell you how you can protect yourself and what services they offer that can help. If you start to feel like handling numbers is getting too much, you may want to grant a trusted loved one shared responsibility for your finances. This is a very common practice and can instantly remove any self-doubt we have over remembering our financial responsibilities or making mistakes.
Consider sharing your medical needs with someone you trust for some extra support. Changes to our medical routine can be a lot to take in and remember, so ask your doctor to write everything down for you. Invest in a medication box with dividers for each day so you can keep track of your prescriptions.
Building A Support Network
While we might not be so physically able, we should have a sense of well being. Establishing a strong support network is key to this, so don’t shy away from recruiting allies! Everyone from our at home caregiver to our family and friends, our doctor, our neighbours, the local pharmacist and the grocery delivery guy can be considered on our team. All of these elements help to build the support system we need to age in place safely and comfortably.
We often rely on friends and family for support but might worry about if they become unwell, need to go away, or simply need a break. A trusted care provider will be able to offer respite care to temporarily give you the extra support you need. Exploring this option ahead of time means that we can feel confident in our flexibility to handle anything ahead. Caregivers can be there on hand to offer help on a totally personal basis with short or long-term solutions to keep you happily independent in your own home.