Six Ideas on Staying Independent As Long As Possible
For the past few years at Rosie on the House we've talked about ways to fix or remodel your home to make it more comfortable and safe for aging members of your family, including you.
We've discussed everything from installing grab bars in the shower to changing the height of cabinets to putting the microwave in a drawer in the kitchen.
Those changes and others like low-threshold showers and wider doorways are inside-the-home improvements. Meanwhile, successfully enjoying life while aging-in-place may also depend on other kinds of challenges that may not necessarily require remodel or handyman work. Here are some challenges you may not have considered:
1 | Keep up with technology
Recently, Cox Communications had an exhibit of some 85 tech devices and services available to help aging adults stay in their own homes. Many devices, of course, require installing high-speed Internet connections, which Cox provides for a fee.
Among possibilities available from assorted companies:
- A security camera that lets you see who's ringing your doorbell. There are also various ways of locking and unlocking doors remotely.
- Pill dispensers that can give visual and auditory "alerts" when you need your medication.
- A voice-activated TV remote so you find favorite programs without pressing buttons or navigating menus. You can also get a large-button TV remote from cable companies or other providers.
- An automatic pet feeder controlled by an app.
- Telehealth technology so you can have live personal interaction with doctors via video on a phone or tablet.
"Are these devices difficult to operate?"
Andrea Krasenes, media relations director for Cox, says front-door cameras, programmable lights and security systems are used by many senior customers, including her parents, age 84 and 88. Also popular is Cox's Trapollo, a system for keeping in touch with doctors electronically.
Technology is great, though nothing takes the place of human interaction. Most devices need regular updates and in case you get stuck, someone needs to be available to do trouble shooting for you.
2 | Get some in-house help
Even if your family lives nearby, you may need regular visits from personal care aides or housekeepers. This can seem overwhelming to arrange, but family and friends might help in hiring; just make sure you make it known that you want the final decision. There are many good options for this type of care in most parts of Arizona. Services such as these will probably cost you around $20 an hour and may require a minimum number of hours. For example, The Foundation for Senior Living in Phoenix has housekeeping services available for a fee. This can be a good investment, especially when compared to the cost of assisted living. Check www.fsl.org/home-care/ or call 602-603-4174.
Long-term care insurance policies are an option as well; these would pay for the type of assistance discussed above. New insurance policies for seniors are developed all the time; assess the cost of them carefully depending on your age. These services can be stay-at-home programs that include general help, provide health services, social activities, referrals for home repairs, and arranging medical and non-medical services. When staying at home no longer works, the money invested can be applied to assisted living. These are particularly valuable for seniors without relatives living nearby.
3 | Think about your transportation needs
If you're giving up your car, be aware that traditional taxis are less plentiful these days. There are options including non-profit- and government-funded transit as well as private ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. Many of these possibilities require having a smartphone and some practice when ordering up your rides.
Local government transportation includes Dial-a-Ride and others. Among the non-profit services in different parts of Phoenix are Duet, Northwest Valley Connect and Benevilla. Some programs provide rides that are low cost or even free, compared to other options.
Start-up companies are also getting into the ride business for older residents. Envoy America in Phoenix pairs seniors with drivers who will open doors and carry groceries ($39 an hour and $59 for two hours).
A senior can also call GoGoGrandparent via landline to schedule a ride-sharing car with a service such as Lyft or Uber; this company charges .27 cents a minute for its services in addition to the transportation company fee. This is one way to avoid having a smartphone and learning to use an app.
4 | Organize paperwork, valuables and your house
Do some general housekeeping for your filing cabinets, closets, the garage and other storage areas of your house. You want to discard and shred those tax returns that are 7 years old or older, bills paid long ago, Christmas cards you haven't looked at in ages, and so forth.
It's possible that if your house is becoming unmanageably disordered, relatives may start urging you to downsize and move when you don't want to.
Longtime residents in houses often have "lots and lots of stuff," says Sandy Cowen of My Life in Order of Phoenix, a business that helps clients of any age organize their homes. Basically, you should go through the house and list all items with sentimental or monetary worth; you can even label some items. You don't inventory everything, she says, just what is important for children and/or friends to know about, including legal documents and the location of keys and valuables.
Another possibility is subscribing to HomeZada, a computer based app on Rosie on the House that makes it easier to keep track of needed tasks in your home as well as inventory your belongings. Check out www.rosieonthehouse.com/homezada for more information.
5 | Get legal or financial help or both
Stop putting off plans to draw up a will and/or trust. Even if you have no family members to survive you, you want to make legal decisions now as well as finding someone trustworthy to handle your affairs if you are incapacitated. That person can be called a fiduciary, personal representative, guardian, conservator, executor or trustee.
If you don't choose that person yourself, a court may later appoint someone to decide what happens to you next. While you are healthy, and alert is when you want to decide what comes next.
6 | Be cautious about scams and strange phone calls
If something sounds unusual and unlikely, it probably is. If you have caller ID for your landline phone, you can avoid answering many fake calls, including ones allegedly from the IRS or credit card companies. Companies such as these will never call you to collect bills; you will receive an official notice in the mail. Never hire anyone to do repairs that is going door-to-door soliciting business and never hire an unsolicited caller to come work on your home.
As for a phone call you would want - many Police Departments throughout Arizona such as Goodyear, Paradise Valley, and Maricopa provide a service called YANA (You Are Not Alone). This program provides regular phone calls and home visits to seniors who have limited family or community contacts, homebound individuals, etc. in order to assure well-being, safety and social interaction. Being alone is one of the greatest fears senior adults have as they grow older; they can take comfort in knowing they can also call the YANA program for help finding specific services and resources. Call your local Police Department to see if they could provide this service for you or a loved one.
We know that aging/living in place is no easy task. Be sure to set aside a little time daily to smooth the path toward becoming comfortable and taken care of for yourself or for other family members. If you are feeling overwhelmed, write a list of all you want to accomplish and complete each task one step at a time.
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