10 Tips for Avoiding Moving into a Nursing Home

by Becky BlantonFebruary 27, 2017

Admit it. Very few of us want to go to a nursing home as we age. We’d much rather stay in our own homes. In fact, The National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) says more than 90 percent of older adults would prefer to age in place rather than move to senior housing. Sometimes a move to a nursing home is inevitable. Health, disability, and mental capacity simply force us into a situation where others must take care of us. With elder abuse on the rise across the country, the prospect of living in a nursing home is a last case resort for most of us.

The good news, according to the Administration on Aging, is that about 28% (12.5 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons do live alone (8.8 million women, 3.8 million men). And almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone. How do they do it? With planning and some adaptive technology and housing changes, say the experts.
It’s called “Aging in place,” and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Many of us ignore, or chose not to think about getting older and what it may entail. However, if you think about your retirement, or “golden years” before they catch up with you, you have a better chance of not being forced into a nursing home by your adult children, well-meaning family members or concerned social workers the neighbors call about you. Here are what the experts advise if you want to avoid moving into a nursing home:

1. Stay healthy.

It sounds obvious, but as we get older it’s harder to exercise, eat right and see our doctors regularly. “You don’t have to become a fixture at your local gym, but walking, stopping smoking, getting plenty of rest and taking care of yourself can add years to your independence,” said Pat Cheeks, an RN, Board Certified Mental Health Counselor and transitions coach.

2. Plan your retirement in terms of financial needs, but also with an eye to your future physical needs.

Install adaptive ramps, devices, walk or roll-in showers and wider hallways and open living spaces while you can afford it and before you need them. You may never need to be in a wheelchair, or use a cane or walker, but it’s easier and less expensive to buy a home with features that allow for such things to begin with.

3. When buying a house after the age of 50, look for a home that is aging in place friendly, or that could be easily adapted.

Look at things like lighting, steps, level driveways, no rolling walkways or narrow paths.

4. Aging in place isn’t just about a home that’s wheelchair accessible or that has handrails and adaptive architecture.

It’s also about the community your home is located in. Are there neighbors who are easily accessible? Is the home (whether a house, condo or duplex) in an area where you can easily and safely go outside to walk or to shop nearby

5. Buy or remodel your home to ensure it’s low-maintenance.

This means installing or considering materials like fiber cement siding. This siding requires very little maintenance or painting. Triple pane windows made of vinyl need no painting and are easily maintained. Exterior doors made of fiberglass are also low maintenance and require no painting. Consider landscaping that has little to no lawn to mow.

6. Research aging in place, and what it entails before retiring or needing it.

Websites like ageinplace.com and others provide a wealth of information, resources, ideas, photos and plans for homes and designs for homes. Don’t wait until the last minute to think about your options.

7. Located near public transportation.

Even if you drive now and plan on driving until someone pries your car keys from your cold, dead hand, look for housing that’s close to public transportation, be it trains, subways, buses or taxis. You may be able to Uber now, but as transportation may be an obstacle in the future, make sure you’re not stranded, dependent upon friends, or family. Driverless cars are on the horizon and will be a boon to seniors who are no longer able to drive, but they will be expensive, so plan accordingly.

8. Talk to your family about your plans.

If you have family, including adult children who may be involved in caregiving, talk to them about your plans and enlist their help in ensuring you remain independent as long as possible. You may never need them for more than doing the heavy lifting or repairs, or maybe driving you around, but it’s better to have their thoughts and input before they actually have to do anything. Make sure they realize you value your independence and intend to keep it and would like their input into how to make that possible.

9. Downsize and simplify your life now.

One of the biggest threats to senior safety is “stuff.” It’s too easy to trip over, and clutter – including boxes, stacks of items you haven’t gotten around to putting away, and too much furniture etc. actually makes a home less livable. Open spaces, smooth surfaces, and fewer belongings make it easier to keep a home clean and organized.

10. Realize you have the right to make decisions for yourself – even bad decisions.

Carolyn Miller Parr, a retired judge, public speaker, and writer who blogs at toughconversations.net, urges seniors and their adult children to accept the fact that adults have the right to make bad decisions. “Unless a parent has dementia or is a danger to others, (for instance driving erratically), she writes, they still have a right to decide. They even have the right to make bad decisions.”

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Happy house hunting!

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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.

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