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No one dreams of living in a nursing home someday. The ideal is to live out our lives in the comfort of our own homes. Luck is certainly a factor in realizing the goal of “aging in place” —health risks increase with each decade, and chronic disease, dementia and fragility may make it too dangerous to remain at home forever.

But planning ahead to age in place as long as possible can increase the odds of a life well-lived at home. There are many factors to consider. A realistic financial plan is a must, even if all the variables for future medical needs cannot be anticipated. So is a safe living arrangement that can accommodate an older adult’s increasing physical limitations.

Here are some of the factors to take into consideration when evaluating your loved one’s ability to age in place—or your own:

  • How easy is it for your loved one to move around her home without risk of falls or other mishaps?
  • What transportation resources are available if and when he has to stop driving?
  • How much work is required to keep her home clean and functional? What support is available to help with household chores as tasks become more difficult?
  • How well can he manage his health and personal care needs, including doctor’s visits, medications, fitness routines and good nutrition?
  • Is she at risk of becoming socially isolated?
Get a Professional Assessment to Help You Plan

As you sort through these questions, it can help to get a professional assessment of your loved one’s strengths and limitations by a physical and/or occupational therapist. If you go this route and your loved one is on Medicare, remember to get a referral through his or her primary care physician so that the evaluation is covered.

Physical therapists can help to determine whether unresolved, chronic pain that limits your loved one’s mobility and strength can be eased with appropriate exercise and the right equipment. (No, it’s NOT a good idea for Mom to use Dad’s old cane when it’s the wrong size for her, just to save money.)

Occupational therapists, in turn, specialize in assessing safety of living spaces and can recommend accommodations that enable your loved one to remain independent when it comes to basic daily activities, such as bathing, eating and maintaining personal hygiene. They can also spot risky areas in the home, such as scatter rugs and rickety stairs, that should be fixed or modified in order to prevent falls.

Research Financing Options for Home Modifications

Many creative and functional adaptations can be made to homes; if such modifications are necessary, from installing a stair lift to reconfiguring a floor plan, be sure to hire contractors who specialize in this type of work. They will be up-to-date on the latest thinking and codes to ensure that your loved one’s home is safe. The Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program provides interest-free loans up to $50,000 to support the costs of such adaptations, with repayment not required until the home is sold or the property’s title or deed is transferred. Nationwide, a variety of programs are also available, ranging from veteran’s benefits to free labor.

While circumstances will certainly change as your loved one grows older, an Aging Life Care Manager can work with you and your loved one to assess her or his needs, whether aging in place is a realistic option, and how best to make that dream a reality for as long as possible.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care Manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

View Privacy Policy here.

Image Credit: Damir Bosnjak

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You’ll find them in coffee houses, museums or other community organizations. Memory cafés are safe, welcoming spaces for people living with forgetfulness or other cognitive challenges, as well as their families and friends. Some memory cafés invite guest artists, others focus on educational programs, and still others just provide a friendly social space for chatting and enjoying each other’s company.

This one-minute video provides a quick overview (if you cannot see the embedded video, click here to view on YouTube):

Memory Café PSA - YouTube

Click here to view the video in Spanish.

To find a memory café in your part of Massachusetts, click here for a directory from Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care Manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

View Privacy Policy here.é

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Temperatures in the 90s. Humid air thick as pea soup. Relentless, hot sun, with no relief under shade trees. Yep, it’s summer, all right, here in New England.

Even for hardy souls, when the heat index soars, it’s hard to get through the day without feeling totally exhausted. For aging loved ones, extreme high temperatures bring added risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. That’s because, as we age, our bodies are less able to adjust to excessive heat or sudden changes in temperature.

Chronic medical conditions can also compromise the body’s internal thermostats, and the prescription medications that treat those conditions can wreak more havoc on elders’ ability to adapt to heat. Some drugs may even hinder perspiration, which is essential to cooling.

Here are some tips to help the elder in your life stay cool and safe in hot weather:

  1. Stay indoors and avoid strenuous activities. Be sure the home or indoor space is comfortably cool. Keep shades down, windows closed against extreme heat and humidity, and use good fans or air conditioning. Make sure fans do not present mobility hazards. Inexpensive solar curtains can help maintain cooler indoor spaces. If those amenities aren’t available, encourage your aging loved one to relax at a library, movie, mall, museum, senior center or other public space that has good air conditioning.
  2. Keep hydrated. Don’t wait until thirst becomes insistent. Drink cold water or other cool beverages throughout the day—but avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can actually dehydrate the body.
  3. Wear lightweight, light-colored cotton or other natural fiber clothing that breathes. Layers help to moderate extremes when moving from outdoor heat to indoor air conditioning.
  4. Stay cool during the day with a foot bath, a shower or body bath, or a washcloth on the back of the neck. Water in all cases should be just below body temperature for the best cooling effect.
  5. Eat light, cold meals and avoid heavy, hot foods. Extreme heat tends to suppress appetite, but it’s important to get nourishment, even in small portions throughout the day. Cold snacks like popsicles or slightly frozen grapes can provide a boost.
  6. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Your loved one may complain of feeling faint, dizzy or nauseated, or have muscle cramps. Excessive sweating, a rapid and weak pulse, and cool, pale skin that feels clammy to the touch are all red flags. Get your elder to a cool place, help her drink water, and apply a cool compress to her forehead or back of the neck. She may need to lie down and rest.
  7. Beware of heat stroke. This is more dangerous. Throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, and a strong, rapid pulse are all symptoms. Most importantly, your elder will not be perspiring, despite a body temperature above 103° F and red, hot, dry skin. He may lose consciousness. Call 9-1-1 immediately, get your loved one to a cool place and apply cold compresses until help arrives.

We can’t control the weather, but we can make plans and take precautions against extreme heat—for ourselves and those we love who are at greatest risk. Here’s hoping those hot, hot days are the exception and not the rule this summer!

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® Manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

View Privacy Policy here.

Image Credit: Alison Marras

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