Adult woman pushing her elderly mother on an outside road. They are looking at the surrounding greenery and pink flowers.

Senior Living and Housing Options: Is Staying at Home Safe?

How to Evaluate Living Arrangements for Independent Seniors

It’s no surprise that it seems an overwhelming majority of seniors would prefer to spend the rest of their days in their current home. Everything ties your aging loved one to their home, from being comfortable with the floorplan to their privacy, personal space and, of course, the cherished memories. As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

When you witness a decline in your loved one’s health, you may need to consider other senior living arrangements for long-term care, which can include:

  • In-Home Care
  • Independent Living Community
  • Assisted Living
  • Memory Care
  • Skilled Nursing Facility

The first two options, In-Home Care and an Independent Living Community, are typically a good fit for seniors who have not experienced a significant health decline. Continue reading to learn more about the challenges to independent living and how to evaluate two different options for your loved one. An attorney specializing in elder law can also be an invaluable resource for this important conversation.

Five Common Challenges of Living at Home Alone

Adult children may see a gradual decline in their Mom or Dad’s health or capabilities. For example, mom or dad’s hygiene is no longer a priority, spoiled food is in the refrigerator, and the house and yard are looking more unkempt. Other times, children are prompted to reevaluate their parent’s living arrangement because of a sudden health emergency or an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Identifying and eliminating “red flags” can help reduce the risk of falls and other incidents in your senior adult’s home. Common safety hazards are:

1. Mobility Issues

If Mom or Dad has trouble walking without assistance, it may be difficult for them to do simple things, like getting out of bed and moving around the house. These challenges may be compounded if they are unwilling to use a walker, cane or other assistive device.

2. Floorplan and Layout

Going up and down the stairs greatly increases an older adult’s risk of falling. However, many homes do not accommodate main floor living – if the laundry room is in the basement or the master bedroom is upstairs, for example.

3. Yardwork

Although your loved one may have previously enjoyed working in the yard, it can become a significant hazard. Lawn mowers are responsible for thousands of Emergency Room trips each year. Doing yard work in hot weather also increases the risk of dehydration and fainting.

4. Cooking and Cleaning

Seniors may not always have the strength to keep up with normal daily activities, like cooking with heavy pots and pans. This can create a risk of burns and kitchen fires. Bathrooms with slick floors and damp surfaces are even more risky: Falls are the #1 cause of fatal injury among older adults.

5. Neighborhood Safety

The family home your loved one bought so many years ago may not be in today’s ideal neighborhood. You may find the changing demographics are no longer safe for your Mom or Dad to be living alone.

In-Home Care Helps Make Living at Home a Safer Option

Adult children may try to identify changes that could make staying at home a safer option for their Mom or Dad. For example, could the home be modified with a wheelchair ramp or by relocating an appliance? Could a nearby relative take over cooking or lawn work?

Safety of a loved one in their house (even with modifications) and the safety of their neighborhood should be non-negotiable. However, it may not always be feasible for relatives or other trusted friends to help around the house. An In-Home Caregiver can be beneficial in this and other similar scenarios.

A hired caregiver can provide help around-the-clock or during a scheduled timeframe. This arrangement works well if the parent is willing to have someone they likely do not know come into their home for extended periods of time, up to 24 hours per day. However, finances are a significant factor, as this may be the most expensive living option. In-home, 24-hour care is almost always more expensive than 24-hour care in a typical skilled nursing facility.

If your loved one is healthy enough to enjoy some independence but needing to leave the challenges of home, you may consider helping them relocate to an Independent Living Community.

Benefits of an Independent Living Community

Older adults can benefit from scaling back on the responsibilities of owning a home. For many, an Independent Living Community serves as a comfortable arrangement because these facilities more closely resemble an apartment or condo complex than a nursing home!

Residents enjoy these key benefits of an Independent Living Community:

  • Privacy: Residents have their own private living space – typically as an apartment, attached home or villa.
  • Social Interaction: While living on their own may be quite isolating, residents in an Independent Living Community are able to enjoy group lunches, movie nights, morning coffee and other fun events that promote socializing with their peers.
  • Community Amenities: These facilities offer a variety of helpful resources, which can include transportation for shopping and doctor visits, housekeeping services, laundry facilities, outside parking for residents and guests, and wellness check programs.

In order to live in an Independent Living Community, a resident must be able to evacuate from the building and respond to an emergency without assistance – though assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchairs are almost always allowed. Nursing assistance is not provided by the community.

Some Independent Living Communities allow private duty home care companies to contract services with its residents who may need help with certain activities, such as medication management, bathing or dressing. Communities may approve one specific company to provide these services, or let the resident’s family make the selection. However, seniors who need a greater level of care and supervision are likely to be a better fit for a different senior living arrangement, such as Assisted Living or a Nursing Home.

Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law Can Help Your Loved One

Making decisions about your Mom or Dad’s living arrangement is a big responsibility. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, contact the elder law attorneys at Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law in St. Charles. Our staff can help make sure you have the authority to act on your loved one’s behalf, and that their financial situation is set to make your decision a feasible one.

Our firm can also connect you with a professional Life Care Consultant, who can:

  • Assess the need for a change in your loved one’s living arrangement.
  • Act as a liaison between family members.
  • Help the family and senior adult make the best decision for their loved one.
  • Accompany the family on tours of senior living communities.
  • Conduct follow-up visits to help ensure an appropriate placement.

Contact the office of Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law to discuss your questions today, or schedule a free consultation with an elder law attorney.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.