Teamwork & Coordination to Help Your Loved One Age In Place

October 28, 2015

When an aging loved one maintains that he or she wants to “age in place” or live independently for as long as possible, family members and friends play a key role in helping them accomplish that goal. By setting up a realistic  and cooperative senior support system and ensuring that a loved one has the tools to stay in his or her home, the family can feel confident that measures are in place to help their loved on stay safe and healthy and that solutions are ready before any complications arise.

Develop the Plan as a Team

Set up a meeting for family members and your aging loved one to discuss the situation and goals. When a senior wants to stay at home, he or she can provide important input and should be involved in the discussion so that family members are fully aware of his or her preferences and desires.

By arranging regular meetings and updates with the entire family, a loved one can have the proper support and care that he or she needs without invading his or her personal space. It also allows a loved one to bring up and developments or problems that occur as part of the aging process.

Evaluate Skills

During a meeting, talk about personal skills and the skills of other family members. Skills like cooking or cleaning can help a loved one by ensuring that his or her home remains free of clutter and potential risks.

Make arrangements for individuals to help according to their abilities and their skills. For example, if a particular family member has a cooking skill, then ask the individual to bring meals or assist an elderly loved one in the kitchen. Alternatively, an individual with skills in cleaning can help remove clutter and keep the space clean and sanitary.

Factors such as location and availability should play a role in how responsibilities are managed as well.  Someone living far away or that works full time might not be as available, but could provide occasional respite help or assist in some administrative way.  In this case it’s important that regular updates are provided and that more involved family members are supported in their efforts to handle the bulk of the work.      

Evaluate Changing Needs

Expect changes over time based on a loved one’s abilities. For example, a loved one might need help getting to their favorite activities or to the doctor’s office for appointments. In other situations, a family member might need help managing financial aspects of his or her life, such as insuring that bills are paid and assets are protected.

Needs and concerns change over time, so evaluate the situation regularly to determine when to involve outside help or when to get involved in other necessities. Pay particular attention to problems like forgetting to pay the bills, missing out on hobbies or losing interest in meeting with loved ones unexpectedly.  Also ensure your loved one’s physician is updated regarding any changes in physical ability such as increasing pain or reduced mobility.  Your loved one’s ability to remain as independent as possible can depend on staying ahead of changes in their condition. 

Ask for Professional Assistance

Although family members might want to provide and care for an aging loved one, it is not always possible to handle every problem personally. In particular, health concerns that arise might require a home care agency or a caregiver to provide appropriate services based on a loved one’s current health and abilities.  In other cases increasing care needs might require more time or complex processes that family isn’t prepared or able to manage. 

Objectively identify potential senior care options and compare different programs before assuming that a particular solution is right for a loved one.  Again, make sure to get your loved one’s input on their preferences regarding incorporating professional help in their care. In some cases, in-home care focuses on very basic necessities like driving a loved one to appointments or cleaning the house, while other individuals need medical care or assistance remembering to take medications at an appropriate time. Work with a care planning professional or geriatric care manager if you notice any health concerns or when you have worries about a loved one’s situation at home.  Learn more about your care options, such as home care agencies, and which might be a good fit for your loved one at our Care Services page. 

Get Help from Other Sources

Other sources of help for an aging loved one depend on the community and the area. Some community programs offer services to help clean up a loved one’s home, deliver foods to a loved one or provide further support for a family when they want to help a loved one stay at home.  Check with your local Area Agency on Aging for more information regarding community programs in your area. Alternatively, discuss services available through a church or religious organization or volunteer group. Some organizations offer support and help for basic needs like cleaning up, cooking or even just providing polite company to help a loved one stay connected to the community and his or her beliefs.

Set Up Measures for Emergency Situations

A key problem that arises when a loved one stays at home while he or she ages is falls or other emergencies. A family must evaluate for potential problems and set up a plan of action for possible emergencies as early as possible to prevent or limit injuries that might arise. 

Make arrangements for emergency situations, such as putting phone numbers on the fridge or using a one-touch system, such as Life Alert or Lifeline Medical Alert, to help a loved one connect with appropriate authorities when an emergency arises.

Visit Regularly and Stay Active

Emotional health is as important as physical health when a loved one stays at home. Take the time to visit regularly and remind an aging loved one that he or she still has loved ones. Give a loved one the respect he or she needs by talking about a variety of topics and staying up-to-date with his or her life. Show that he or she is important for the entire family.  

It’s also important that your loved one still have access to the activities they found meaningful when they were more independent.  Helping them participate in social functions, physical activity or just getting outdoors is critical to a healthy brain and body.  Staying active also helps avoid isolation and depression. 

Working as a team to develop a senior support system with family and community supports is vital to help a loved one stay in his or her home for as long as possible. By staying engaged with your loved one and even helping with simple arrangements to help with chores, cooking or even just picking up groceries, you can identify potential problems and develop solutions early and maintain meaningful contact with your loved one. This can allow a senior to remain independent, healthy and safe successfully.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of MyCareMatch.com and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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