Think independence for your senior family member

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By Angela Rocheleau

As we celebrate our country’s independence this month, it may also be time to think about the independence of a senior loved one in your family.

Is your elderly family member still living in a home that is difficult to access due to many stairs? If so it may be hard for them to navigate their home. This home, which was once their pride and joy, may have become a dangerous environment where the elder may be prone to accidents and falls. Is the elder struggling to keep up with the never-ending tasks related to maintaining a home? If the answer to this question is yes, then these responsibilities may fall to other family members.

The family home may now become burdensome as far as upkeep is concerned. There are probably many housekeeping tasks that are no longer being completed. More frequent visits by family members may also be required to check on the elder for safety purposes as well as alleviating isolation. Sometimes these challenges can be partially remedied by hiring a professional home care agency, remodeling parts of the home or depending on other family members to lend assistance.

Your elderly loved one wants to maintain their independence and to do so, it may require rethinking their current living situation. Redefining independence as they have known it is now a trade-off for the home that has been a longstanding source of pride. An alternative living arrangement may give them and you more freedom and flexibility in the long run.

There are many types of independent living options to explore and now may be the time to do so:

•PACE. One option gaining more popularity these days is a PACE Program, a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. This is a national program available in Central Massachusetts. It is a complete medical, insurance and social support program for adults 55 or older who qualify for nursing home care. Services also include prescription drugs and medical transportation plus resources for caregivers.

Senior apartments. Senior apartments are complexes restricted by age, usually 55+. Rent may include community services such as recreational programs, transportation services and meals served in a communal dining room.

Retirement communities. Retirement communities are groups of housing units for those aged 55+. These housing units can be single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses or condominiums. Additional monthly fees may cover services such as outside maintenance and recreation centers.

•Continuing care retirement communities. Continuing care retirement communities offer service and housing packages that allow access to independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in one community. If residents living independently become less able to manage their activities of daily living, they can transfer to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility on the same site.

These are choices to consider for your elder loved one. Any of these options can be supplemented with the additional help of home care aide support from a professional agency to assist with the everyday chores of maintaining an independent lifestyle. Most important of all… in July and all year long, finding a way to maintain our independence is what all of us want for as long as possible.

Angela Rocheleau has 25 years of experience in the home health care industry focusing on leadership roles for the past two decades. She serves on the Better Business Bureau board of Central New England and the Executive Board of the Mass Council for Home Care Aides.