Many Americans want to age at home as they get older. The good news is that there are many ways to do this successfully, even if changes in health make it challenging.
You’ll find a variety of resources that will help you age in place on the National Institute on Aging and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging websites.
But even if you’re certain that you want to live out your years in your current home, it’s still smart to have a Plan B.
Age at Home: Why it’s wise to have a backup plan
Suppose you have an unexpected health crisis. It might come out of the blue. Or it might be a flare-up of a medical condition you thought you had under control.
It’s serious enough that staying at home is suddenly no longer a viable option. Maybe stairs are now a big problem. Or the cost of paid home care you need is more than you can afford. Or your family runs the risk of burning out and developing health issues of their own if they have to support you at home over the long term.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, you may be forced to rush to find a suitable new home. And if you’re stuck in the hospital, that responsibility may fall to your children.
That’s why it’s a good idea to explore other housing options ahead of time – such as senior living communities – even if you have no intention of moving. Create a fall-back plan.
It might look something like this: My clear preference is to age at home, but if something happens and that’s no longer possible – despite everyone’s efforts – here are some places I’ve looked at that I’d consider moving to… if absolutely necessary.
That way, in a crisis, your adult children or your spouse won’t have to scramble as much to find a place and wonder whether you’d like it there. And you’d be maintaining more control over the decision of where you end up calling home.
Consider too that other things may lead you to change your mind about staying in your own home. You may lose your spouse and the place may feel uncomfortably empty without them. Or friends and neighbors may move away and you’re left without much of a social life. A change of scenery might start to look a little more appealing under those circumstances.
Age at Home: How to make your Plan B
It’s easy to put off making a plan and to say “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” But think of your Plan B as insurance. You may never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
It’s difficult to predict what health issues you may run into in the future – and the type of support you may need – but you might be able to make an educated guess. If you or your spouse currently have health conditions like diabetes or emphysema, the National Institute on Aging suggests talking with your doctor to see how these problems might affect you in the future and what kind of support you might need because of them.
As you start to look around at different housing options, you may be surprised by what comes to light. For instance, some people have some strong preconceptions of retirement communities, often because of an experience they had with their own parents. But like so many other things, retirement communities have changed with the times. And you may only learn this by checking them out.
If you want to search for housing options on your own, check out the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living. Or you can enlist the assistance of someone who specializes in housing options for seniors like a realtor with a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation.
If a loved one is faced with memory loss, you may find our Just the Facts Guide: Memory Care helpful for understanding memory care in senior living communities.