Spencer Johnson, M.D., author of “Who Moved My Cheese,” is quoted as saying, “The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.” This is a direct correlation to why we seem to want to remain in our homes for as long as we can. Our home represents comfort, independence, familiarity and security to us. At least that’s what we’d like to think.
The aging process is insidious and creeps up on us. While time marches on, our physical and mental abilities seem to be marching backwards. For those who wish to remain living in the home they have been in for a very long time, one consideration must stand out about all the rest. Is it safe to do so? Being “safe” plays out in a myriad of ways from the physical (health care) to the environment (the design of the home) to the psychological and social (avoiding isolation and boredom). Answering these questions can lead to very enlightening discoveries and help identify future problems or issues.
So where do you start when you want to determine if remaining in the home is an option? First of all, the fact that you have begun this thought process puts you ahead of the game in a variety of ways. It allows you to address possible issues now before they become critical ones. Second, you have control over this decision. If you wait too long, this decision can be taken away from you.
A good place to begin is deciding what is most important to you so that, with forward planning, you can continue to enjoy your life in as safe an environment as possible. Is it having the ability to attend social and community events? Stay involved with family? Continue to have access to libraries and learning opportunities? What about transportation to and from doctors, etc. Will you be able to maintain your home and property? If not, who will do this for you? And, of course, how much will it cost?
As you can see, there are a lot of questions to ask and to answer. This process can help put your priorities in order and bring to the forefront, if any, changes you will need to make to continue to do these things safely.
So for instance, what about remaining safe within the building you call home? As we age, our eyes being to lose their ability to focus as well as they used to. So, for instance, it can become increasingly difficult to see changes in floor levels or even floor surfaces, causing stairs, throw rugs and clutter on the floor to turn into hazards for trips and falls. Difficulty reading the oven temperature dials, locating items on shelves or in cupboards or even using the telephone can become frustrating and even dangerous. The solutions to these issues can be as simple as removing all throw rugs, lowering or removing door thresholds, installing a telephone with alarm lights or shelving that pulls down closer to us. These aging changes play out in a multitude of ways and can affect how we move around, bath or cook to staying active and involved in our communities and families. Finding solutions to these issues before they become hazardous to you is where pre-planning is so advantageous.
At the top of my list is knowing that a time may come when I can no longer drive. The day the car keys are taken from me is a day I dread. However, if I plan ahead to live where there is transportation to where I want to go (health care, social events, libraries, community college), then I will be able to transition into this stage with less stress and angst. If I have access to that transportation from where I live now, then I can successfully remain in my current home. If not, then I need to plan on moving to a residence where I can.
Choosing to age in place is not as easy as it may seem, but continually assessing future needs and the options available to address those needs may make the road ahead less stressful and far more enjoyable – for all family members.
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