So next week is National Aging-In-Place Week, according to the National Aging-In-Place Council. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the seven states listed on their website, you might be able to attend a National Aging-In-Place Week event – Music! Refreshments! Door prizes!
The NAIPC’s mission is to promote aging-in-place (the practice in which seniors stay in their own homes as they age instead of going to assisted living facilities or nursing homes) by fostering cooperation between businesses, non-profits and care providers, and encouraging seniors to think ahead to what they will need in order to live independently for as long as possible.
The term “family caregiver” does not appear anywhere on the NAIPC’s site, and in the list of folks among whom they’re trying to cultivate partnerships, it would seem a glaring omission. I think a family caregiver is part of a good many, if not most, seniors’ strategies for aging-in-place.
Maw and Paw are not aging-in-place, per se; they were forced to leave their home because Maw could no longer care for Paw by herself. But now they’re aging-in-my-place, and I aim to keep them both out of nursing homes until they die. And that’s going to take some doing, on my part, and on yours, you know… you, society as a whole.
What are we going to need? As far as I can tell, three things. First, an accessible town. People outlive their ability to drive by about 8-10 years. After that, it’s walking, public transport, or relying on someone to drive you everywhere, which is what Maw and Paw do. I’d say carting Maw and Paw around accounts for about 30% of the time I spend caring for them. But we live in a traditional suburb; even the quickie mart is nearly half a mile away. I realize that the transformation of billions of dollars’ worth of real estate into cute mixed-use walkable neighborhoods is not a realistic goal, at least not in time to do Maw or Paw any good. But failing that, they and other seniors need workable and affordable public transportation. And I don’t think this means handing them bus passes. At this point, Maw and Paw don’t have the stamina for anything other than door-to-door service.
Second, we need a completely accessible house. Wheelchair ramp, roll-in shower, stair lift, and grab bars as far as the eye can see. We’re on our way with this one. But might I mention here that as an adjunct to this, we’re going to need some quality controls in place to weed out some of the more unscrupulous contractors involved in the “ageproofing” of seniors’ houses. Our recent bathroom remodel saw bids from contractors specializing in this area consistently 50% above those who didn’t advertise this specialty.
Finally, we’re going to need services, lots and lots of affordable services. Physical therapy. Home health aides. Care coordinators. Money managers. Housekeepers. Respite caregivers. And we’re going to need insurance coverage for those services. If it’s covered in the nursing home, then it should be covered in the senior’s home.
When Maw first got sprung from the rehab center, I was completely flummoxed when I realized how few services were available to help her continue her recovery at home. She stayed an extra two weeks in the facility simply because that was the only way she could get daily physical therapy, and those fourteen extra days cost Medicare and Maw’s private insurer about $7000. I’m still not convinced that Maw ever needed the skilled nursing care the home provided. The real reason she went there instead of straight home after her discharge from the hospital was that she couldn’t walk, and there was no way for me physically even to get her into our house. What she really needed was a couple of beefy bodybuilders to schlep her from bed to chair and back again. Surely the total for that would have come in at something well under the $30K Medicare and Tricare paid for Maw’s rehab center stay. Just think of the billions that could be saved by addressing the needs of family caregivers in keeping their loved ones at home.
Someday, I’d like to find some kind of service or benefit or something that Maw and Paw and I qualify for. Some kind of help from someone, somewhere, somehow. Because I cannot do this alone, I know. But so far, I’ve come up empty. There’s no local chapter of the NAIPC here, and their focus seems to leave out the way Maw and Paw have chosen to age-in-place. It’s a good idea, though, promoting aging-in-place.
Anyway, I guess it’s a start, and if there’s an Aging-In-Place Week event near you, at least there’s refreshments.
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