Here is a snippet from our new, fully narrated course: Aging in Place-Eliminating Pitfalls. All our courses are AIA and state approved for continuing education credits to help satisfy architect renewal requirements.
"PROBLEMS TO BE EXPECTED WITH AGING
We have a long history of aging, pretty much since the beginning of time. It is no longer difficult to predict what will happen in our lives and bodies as we add to our years.
Balance will become a significant issue. This problem can arise from a loss of physical strength, effects of different medications, cognitive and visual impairments. Without thinking through a strategy to prevent or at least minimize falls, an issue with balance can become a significant health hazard. It’s a really good idea to periodically determine if loved ones (or you) can safely do these:
- Climb up and down stairs with confidence
- Stand and sit down again on chairs, beds, toilets, etc.
- Get into, bathe and safely exit bathtubs and showers
- Drive and return from destinations, from a standpoint of both physical and cognitive capability
- Bend down and pick up items from the floor or lower shelves
- Easily carry items like grocery bags and laundry baskets
- Successfully use public transportation
- Keep the home and property clean
- Properly use all appliances
- Manage personal health
A consequence of deciding to stay at home, whether alone or not, is the strong possibility of home accidents. Depending on the severity of the accident and whether injuries occur, if someone falls, they may not be able to get back on their feet. Cognitive issues like dementia can lead them away, but not necessarily back home. Extended periods of solitude, especially around holidays and in periods of inclement weather, can foster feelings of depression. In the presence of confusion and absence of assistance, medication use can turn dangerous when ignored, taken in excess or inadvertently combined with other medicine. Limited mobility leads to other issues like avoiding grocery shopping or failure to make scheduled health appointments. There are also various health conditions like strokes or Parkinson’s disease where the victims can simply no longer function alone.
Even if your loved one will allow you to make changes, it’s a very good idea to ease into them gradually. Prioritize the changes you (and they) feel will be beneficial and set a time frame to implement them. Discuss options and let the resident choose which ones will best meet their needs. Then accomplish agreed upon tasks in portions. Give those you love a chance to adapt to a few changes, before the next set is implemented. If all that sounds like it will be easy, it won’t.
Don’t Expect Gratitude. Sometimes we just do what we have to do, regardless of the resistance faced. But don’t expect aging loved ones to be grateful when we suggest or implement changes in their lives.
- No one likes to change, not even us. We have set routines, set ways to do things, habits we cannot break if we tried, and even ways we’ve developed to do things based on many, many years of experience learning to get it right. Regardless of whether another way seems like a better choice to you, if we haven’t decided on the necessity of change ourselves, nothing will be done.
- No one likes to admit they can improve or be improved, not even us. If we felt like there was a better way to accomplish something, we would already be doing it that way. What we generally don’t care for, is someone younger than we are, telling us how much better they can make our lives. Especially when they are our children. We don’t really intend that anyone should decide for us which of our possessions we will need to eliminate in order to declutter. What we own, we own for a reason. We’d rather take chances with falling than give that priceless item away. Store it in another place for a while? That’s ridiculous. Why pay for storage when we can just keep storing it here?
- No one likes role reversals, not even us. When we have been in charge our whole adult lives, we don’t expect to have anyone dictate anything to us. We are the decision makers and problem solvers in our relationships. We have years of experience and hard-earned wisdom on our side. If we want your advice, we will ask for it.
- No one likes admitting they need help, not even us. We have spent lifetimes helping others who need it. We have little interest in feeling helpless, tired, weak or damaged. Because in our minds, we are still strong, twenty-year-old problem solvers. To admit otherwise will be to acknowledge the coming end of our time. Do we need help? No, but thank you anyway.
Graduated Change. The best proven approach on how to get aging loved ones to let others help is to implement changes in phases. Really! These are based on stages and correspond with phases of the aging slowly coming to terms with the idea that, somewhere along the line, agility has been traded for wisdom.
Phase 1 – Fairly Unaware: At this point, while others may see problems developing, the resident does not. There is no motivation for them to live any differently than before. They won’t discuss the issue, seek out information or acknowledge any need. At this point, there is no point in attempting to implement any changes.
Phase 2 – Pondering: The resident is becoming aware that maybe, just maybe, problems are surfacing that it might be possible to counter. Maybe something should change. This realization is often triggered by a bad event, like a fall with injuries. Now the resident is at least open to discussing options and specific solutions to the things they now perceive to be issues.
Phase 3 – Implementing: At this point, residents are ready to make changes and modifications. If changes are implemented gradually, resistance to them will be lessened. No more changes than are absolutely required should be made. It’s not a bad idea to discuss beforehand what trigger events should precipitate which changes. Everyone should be aware that sometimes, necessary changes in one space may involve taking room from one that is adjacent.
Phase 4 – Maintenance: Residents are beginning to even make changes in their behavior. Whatever will be necessary to maintain their status quo and remain at home. They realize a worsening of their situation might make that impossible. At this point, they will accept almost any changes that hold out hope. This is usually a point no one wants to reach. Winning probably wasn’t worth it."
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