10 Signs That It's Impossible To Safely Age In Place
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
For baby boomers and the majority of Americans over the age of 65, the desire to stay in their own homes as they age is on the rise. As the state of the senior care industry in the United States continues to decline while prices continue to rise, more Americans are choosing to stay at home instead of shelling out thousands of dollars a month on a fixed income for a caretaker or facility.
Almost 90% of seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes to age in place. With this in mind, many seniors begin preparing their homes and finances for aging in place. With a strong support system of friends and family members, a medical alert device or personal emergency response system, and a few modifications to the home, it's possible for the majority of seniors to safely and comfortably age in place indefinitely.
However, aging in place isn't possible for everyone. Many seniors in the United States are burdened with financial troubles, chronic medical conditions, bills, poor relationships, and mental health problems. While these may not automatically disqualify your loved one for aging in place, several situations make aging in place impossible.
1. Your loved one's home isn't safe or easily accessible
Not all homes are ideal for seniors aging in place. While many modifications can be made to make a home more accessible for your loved one, some homes don't cut it. For example, homes with a lot of stairs create a risk for falling and sustaining an injury. Homes with tile and hardwood floors can be slippery below unsteady legs. Homes on an upper story can be challenging to get in and out of.
You should also consider if the home will make sense in the future. If your loved one started using a wheelchair, would they have trouble getting around? Some standard-sized doorframes aren't wide enough for wheelchairs, and those can be very expensive to refit and replace.
2. You can't afford to make long-term modifications to your loved one's home
To age in place comfortably, you will need to make at least a few simple modifications to your loved one's home to make it safer. However, many seniors with mobility issues will require more expensive changes, such as a walk-in bathtub or stairlift. In extreme situations, the inside of the home will need to be remodeled to be safer and more accessible for your loved ones as they age. If cost is an issue, it can be difficult to safely age in place. It may be a better option to sell the home and move to a home that is already senior-friendly.
3. You don't live close enough to your loved one or can't take the time to see them
Being easily accessible is an essential part of allowing your loved one to age in place. If your loved one lives in a different state with no close family or friends nearby, it can be dangerous for your loved one to age in place. Community is vital when it comes to caretaking. Your loved one will need help frequently as they age and if nobody is nearby to help them with the basics, it can be dangerous for them. Some seniors aging in place end up eating spoiled food and living in filth due to a lack of community. Regular visits ensure that your loved one is still eating good, feeling okay mentally, and living clean and healthy. If you or other friends, family members, or close neighbors can't physically check on your loved one periodically, it's not safe for them to age in place.
4. Your loved one doesn't like to be alone
Mental health is a huge part of aging in place comfortably. A big issue many seniors aging in place face is depression and loneliness. With the inability to get around on their own and the test of time taking their friends and family away, many seniors become isolated when they live alone. If your loved one can't mentally handle being alone for extended periods, these symptoms can lead them to neglect their own basic needs. If they don't like being alone, they won't like aging in place.
5. Your loved one doesn't like asking for help
Everyone who ages in place will require assistance in one way or another. If your loved one is stubborn or doesn't want to ask for help, it can be dangerous for them to age in place. If you can't rely on them to push the button on their PERS device after a fall or call for help when they aren't capable of running their own errands, they may not be fit to age in place.
6. Your loved one is extremely forgetful or has Alzheimer's or Dementia
Forgetfulness is a part of aging. However, forgetfulness can make it dangerous to age in place. If your loved one can't remember to take their own medications, keep themselves fed or hydrated, get to the bathroom on their own, or use their medical alert device to call for help, they are not fit to age in place. Conditions like Alzheimer's disease or Dementia make it impossible for your loved one to safely age in place. They can't learn or won't remember how to get help in an emergency or meet their own basic needs on a day to day basis. It's also worth mentioning that forgetfulness may spring up on your loved one while actively aging in place. It may start as something as silly as forgetting to turn off the stove after cooking a meal. Be sure to keep an eye on your loved ones and monitor them carefully as they age in place. Signs like this may indicate that a more hands-on situation is necessary, and aging in place is no longer viable.
7. Your loved one is disabled
Disabilities do not automatically disqualify your loved ones from aging in place. However, limitations that prevent your loved one from getting around on their own do. If your loved one can't get to the bathroom on their own or if they're bedridden they will need more hands-on attention. Additionally, some mental disabilities disqualify your loved one from aging in place. If your loved one can't call for help or be trusted to take care of their basic needs and emotions, aging in place is not an option.
8. Your loved one can't manage their own basic needs
Your loved one needs hands-on attention if they frequently neglect their own basic needs. If your loved one can't be trusted to keep themselves clean, fed, and hydrated, they aren't a good candidate for aging in place. Other basic needs include getting around, paying bills on time, keeping a tidy house, and keeping themselves safe and mentally active. Here are a few warning signs that your loved one shouldn't be aging in place.
9. Your loved one can't afford their current home or lifestyle
Remember, aging in place is a long-term solution. If you can't afford to pay for something three times over, you are technically living above your means. Many seniors get by on a fixed-income or retirement fund. If the bills are already piling up and there's never any money left over for the savings account in case of an accident or injury, aging in place can be dangerous. If your loved one can't afford their current home or lifestyle after medical bills and necessities, downsizing the home and cutting costs can make it possible to age in place.
10. Your loved one refuses to use their PERS device
Medical alert devices and personal emergency response systems only work if your loved one has access to them at all times. There are many different reasons that seniors may object to wearing a medical alert device. However, these devices are an essential safety net for seniors and their loved ones that provide freedom and independence. If you can't rely on your loved one to wear and use the device in an emergency, it's not safe for them to age in place.
Overall, the most significant part of aging in place is consistent communication with loved ones and caretakers as well as close monitoring to ensure their safety. If at any point any of these signs spring up, it may be unsafe for your loved one to continue aging in place.