No one aspires to abandon their home for a care facility later in life. Most older adults want to stay in the place where they raised their children, celebrated holidays, built a community of support, and found comfort in a familiar environment over the decades. The home represents much more than the basic need of shelter. Within its walls, the home is infused with every memory, large or small, of a life well lived. “Aging in Place” is safely remaining in the home while maintaining a reasonably high quality of life until medical care requires relocation.
Aging in place strategies can be proactive or reactive. Ideally, a healthy older adult will thoughtfully consider their living environment and proactively prepare for their future decline in health. Because many adult children assume the role of family caregiver, this planning may begin with housing an elder parent before transitioning to their own healthcare needs. Conversely, aging in place may be considered after a decline in health. As a reaction to a sudden or gradual deterioration in health, the homeowner will modify their residence to accommodate their new limitations.
Because we are unable to precisely predict the future state of our health—or the health of a loved one—aging in place is preparation for the unknown. It is an investment based upon the assumption that a manageable decline in health will occur over a duration of time. However, there are no guarantees of a return on this investment.
Three scenarios can occur. First, a medical event could swiftly and severely hit without warning. This circumstance would require immediate, long-term care in a medical facility. Second, a chronic disease could cause a protracted decline in health. Over time, this scenario could diminish self-sufficiency until a care facility becomes a necessity. Finally, a manageable decline in health could enable varying degrees of self-sufficiency for the duration of life. This circumstance could be maintained through the aid of family, friends, and home- and community-based healthcare services.
The future health of the homeowner dictates any return on the investment of aging in place. Despite the strongest emotional ties to a home, some older adults cannot safely live in their house due to significant physical or cognitive decline. These individuals need advanced medical attention that prohibits aging in place. While most adults resist—or flatly repel—the idea of assisted living facilities or skilled nursing facilities, their medical needs may not offer an alternative. For other older adults, renovations or modifications can add precious time in the home before they eventually enter a care facility. In other cases, adjustments in the home can promote independence, which allows the homeowner to safely stay in their residence for the remaining days of their life.
With regard to the financial risk of this investment, the emotional pull of home is prevailing. More older adults are willing to bet that they can increase the time in their own home if they adequately prepare for the limitations that accompany age. Fulfilling the innate desire to stay at home is gaining momentum, and “Aging in Place” is now a societal buzzword. But what does aging in place involve? How can an aging homeowner adequately prepare for their future healthcare at home? Is the homeowner a viable candidate for aging in place?
This Beach Barrister series addresses the facets of home living that impact the ability to age in place: (1) Home Renovation, (2) Home Modifications, (3) Personal Care, (4) Everyday Living, and (5) Social Support. Our first two categories explore the home’s physical space. The remaining three installments address the homeowner’s personal needs. In total, these five topics will inspire thoughtful conversations among family members who are asking, “Can Mom or Dad safely live in their home?” or “Does my home support aging in place later in life?”
Home Renovation examines the structural impediments to aging in place, as well as renovation remedies. Home Modifications examines low-cost and no-cost aids that make home living safer. Personal Care, Everyday Living, and Social Support discuss the homeowner’s physical and cognitive ability to meet their basic needs, accomplish daily activities, and maintain a reasonably high quality of life.
Until next time… Plan Early. Plan Often. Plan Well.
Beach Barrister is NOT a law firm. We are an educational forum. We do NOT legally counsel individuals based upon their specific life circumstances or planning goals.
Beach Barrister is NOT a substitute for legal counsel. We highly encourage every viewer of this site to seek a local, licensed, reputable attorney to assist you with your state-specific laws, planning goals, and execution of documents.