Aging in Place: Decision-making Guidelines

Data compiled by AARP indicates the vast majority of seniors would prefer to continue living in their own homes as they age; and the good news, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is that with the right help you might be able to do just that.

Staying in your own home as you get older is called “aging in place.” Here are several suggestions from the NIA and others that can help you identify the best plan and find the help you need to continue to live independently:

  • Plan ahead…The first step is to think about the kinds of help you might need or want in the near future. Maybe you live alone, so there is no one living in your home who is available to help you. Maybe you don’t need help right now, but you live with a spouse or family member who does. Everyone has a different situation. In many cases, this plan is formed in collaboration with adult children. If this is the case for your family, a few suggestions from include:
    • Step out of the past and focus on the future. It’s important to resolve any past tensions or conflicts between siblings and avoid reliving old childhood dynamics; address the fact that you’ve all grown up and aren’t the same people you were 30 years ago in order to have a productive conversation.
    • Schedule a family meeting where everyone has an opportunity to express their concerns and contribute solutions. Here are 5 tips from PBS news hour on having an effective family meeting:
      1. Set an agenda for the meeting and stick to it
      2. Focus on the present; try not to bring up past or unrelated issues
      3. Share your feelings and concerns with siblings instead of making accusations
      4. Listen and respect the opinions of all participants; give everyone time to speak
      5. Share complete information. If possible, get a professional assessment of your parent’s condition from a doctor, social worker, or geriatric care manager and send the report to all participants prior to the meeting
  • Consult with your family physician… make sure all parties are aware of your health and medication needs.
  • Discuss money management… Do you worry about paying bills late or not at all? Are health insurance forms confusing? Maybe you can get help with these tasks. Ask a trusted relative to lend a hand. Volunteers, financial advisors, or geriatric care managers can also help. Just make sure you get the referral from a trustworthy source and be careful to avoid money scams (see related post on financial exploitation)
  • Research local resources… You can get almost any type of help you want in your home—often more information is available via your local Area Agency on Aging, local and State offices on aging or social services, nearby senior center, or local in-home care providers.
  • Be prepared for a medical emergency… If you or your spouse were to suddenly become sick and unable to speak for yourselves, you will need someone you trust and who knows you well to decide on your care. To make sure this happens, think about giving someone you trust permission to discuss your health care with doctors and make necessary decisions. You might consult with an estate planning attorney about how to best proceed in this area.