Building your support team for aging (for age 55 and older) – Part 2
by Sharon Simpson
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the importance of building a support team around you for your physical health. To read, click here
Staying in your home
A popular phrase today for seniors is ‘aging in place’. This phrase is identifying the ideal way that seniors want to manage their home environment as they age. It identifies the priority that most seniors have to live in their own home without multiple transitions. Planning ahead to stay in your own home is difficult because you may not know what you need or when you need it.
In terms of your physical home, there are some considerations for you as you build a support team around you. Do you need a handyman to do repairs? Will you hire a house cleaner to ensure that your home is clean? Do you need a contractor to do some senior-friendly renovations? What equipment do you need in your home to enable you to age in place? For those who are planning to stay in their own home, explore the HAFI grant. This grant provides financial assistance to eligible low-income households to complete home adaptations for independent living.
The support team that helps you stay in your home may surprise you. It might be your grandchild that sets up the technology that allows you, and others, to feel safe.
This can include web-based hardware such as small video cameras that are not only motion-activated and voice-activated, but are high resolution in the dark. It may also include web-based pill dispensers or web-based fall-response software. Smart-homes can be configured to turn lights off and on, to ensure that appliances are not left on and to turn off taps or sense flooding. A lifeline is no longer a button you press when you need help. Instead, it’s a fall-detector, a GPS locator and an automatic emergency response, if you are unconscious.
Who will you need on your home renovation support team? A traditional carpenter and an IT genius (likely someone under 30 who finds it all very easy to set up and maintain).
The equipment you need to grow old – Yes, the equipment of aging is part of your support team. Fitted equipment can make all the difference to you as you age. You’ll need a good podiatrist, optometrist, dentist, denturist, sleep expert, hearing specialist, medical equipment specialist and more. Orthotics, dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids, a walker, grab bars, a CPAP machine, pacemaker, new knee, fitted wheelchair, incontinence products and other equipment will keep you going, keep you engaged in social activities and will keep your life full of opportunities.
Where do you start? The starting point is where others are noticing a need. Are those closest to you getting annoyed that you can’t hear them? Is your TV unbearably loud? Does your spouse complain about you snoring? Are you struggling to walk as far as you’d like to walk? Are you saying no to opportunities because you don’t have confidence you can be that far from a bathroom? Be honest about your life and decide that you will do whatever you need to do (no matter how humbling) in order to be a full participant in your own life.
As you build your support team for aging, consider how you will get from place to place. For many seniors, there is no pre-considered plan for transportation when they no longer have a vehicle of their own. Many communities offer a program like HandyDART that enables a senior to phone a city-operated company to come directly to their home to pick them up and drop them off. For some, a child or more than one child or grandchild may be available to do the driving for errands and medical appointments. Friends from church may often be willing to pick up a senior and drive them to and from church events.
For those who are living with multiple treatments as a result of a diagnosis or chronic medical condition, there are often volunteers who will drive you to and from appointments. Check out your local community services to see if this program exists near you. There is also the taxi. BC Transit has a 50 percent subsidy program for permanently registered HandyDART users to use the taxi in their community. The program is called the Taxi Saver program and provides these users with vouchers.
Building your support team for aging will necessarily involve those who are closest to you – either in family relationships or your closest friends. Who is that person you can call at 3 am to come and help you? Who can you call who will be able to drop what they are doing and get you if you need them? Who will manage your finances, if you are no longer able?
According to Statistics Canada, there is a 66 percent chance that the family member who helps you when you need it will be a woman. She will give you up to 20 hours per week of help with a median number of caregiving hours between 3-4 hours/week. She is between the ages of 55-64 and is likely still in the workforce.
So – who is she? Is she your daughter, your daughter-in-law, your spouse, your grand-daughter? When you think about it statistically, you may be able to figure it out. When you do figure it out, ask yourself how you can build that relationship in such a way that there is a shared trust between you when need her assistance.
The day-to-day support that a senior requires is minimized when they live in a community specifically designed to support the needs of the elderly. A seniors’ Independent Living community will provide key services which then reduces the need for support from the family. For example, meals are provided so grocery shopping isn’t necessary. Exercise classes are provided so transportation to the recreation center isn’t required. Chapel may be provided, so driving to and from church is not as needed. Housekeeping and laundry may be provided which decreases the work. With Home Health support or in Assisted Living, medications are managed and administered as well. The decision to move to an Independent or Assisted Living community is, by definition, a decision to add their staff to your support team for aging well.
Sharon Simpson is the Director, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place.