aging in home

Most common mistakes people make when wanting to age in their home

I was asked at a meeting this afternoon what my "most frequent pieces of advice" were for clients. Here's a greatest hits list of encounters I've had in people's homes and what to do about it.

1. No bathroom or a half bath on the first floor- A half bath is a great idea for any house. The problem with them on the first floor is that they are usually either a design afterthought for new construction so they are tucked into a tight space, or they are in a location that makes it extremely difficult for them to expand if need be. No bathroom on the first level speaks for itself. The houses on the seacoast can range from new builds to 300+ years old so there is an incredible amount of variation. 

2. Handrails, or lack thereof- Have two steps down into the living room? Have a split level but you took the railings down when you moved in because of the furniture? Don't like the idea of having a handrail on your front steps for esthetic reasons? Whatever the reason, these are prime areas to improve safety when looking to stay in your home. There are a number of products that have come on the market over the years that improve the outward appearance of some of these bars. This is also an important consideration if you are in the market for joint replacement (think knee, hip, shoulder) to prepare for that discharge. The other half of the equation is having them installed correctly. Have a professional put them in. 

3. Laundry in the basement- When we moved in to our house a few years ago the washer and dryer was in the kitchen. An elderly couple had lived in the home two owners before and had brought the hook ups up from the basement. From a professional standpoint I dragged my feet moving them back to the basement knowing that they would move upstairs decades from now. At least we know where to put them. The #1 reason people cannot live on one level is having laundry in the basement. It's not the most pleasing to look at if there's no option to box them in, but it beats 12 stairs up and down with a laundry basket. 

4. Delaying bringing services in- I think there's a misconception that once you have one person into your home it will inevitably and quickly turn into a tsunami of help that will result in you being swept out to assisted living or a skilled nursing facility. The truth of the matter is there are a number of opportunities along the way to bring services into your home that probably won't affect your ability to stay there. Some example services include:

- cleaning service- once a month, every other week, heavy cleaning, total house clean. You pick the level and adjust as need be over time.

- meal delivery- meals on wheels, take out on fridays, grocery delivery (where available), meal prep delivered. You pick the level of assistance. Maybe grocery shopping isn't your thing but you still have no problems cooking. 

- money management- need help paying bills or staying on top of your checkbook? There are trained professionals to assist you with keeping your accounts in order. There is a checks and balances system in place to protect you as well

- respite- this is not an in home service typically. If you are the caregiver for an aging spouse there are respite programs in the area that will take over care for them to give you a "break" or the opportunity to not be responsible for them. I've seen this most commonly for individuals going into the hospital to have an elective procedure. Usually respite in a few weeks to a month, which gives the caregiver the chance to have surgery (joint replacements, etc), recovery, and return to caregiving when they are healthy and able.

5. Not having a plan in place- wanting to stay in your home is typically a polarizing decision. If you want to stay home, you need to have a plan in place. Mapping out your potential problems along the way as you age creates the opportunity for you to say "I want to stay until ..... happens" or "even if ..... happens, here's my plan to address it". The more clarity you have with these decisions and the more open you are with your family about them, the more likely they will be carried out. 

The more clarity you have the greater chance your family will continue to work collaboratively to support your choices. Starting early, before you are confronted with the immediate need to make changes will save stress, time, money, and aggravation in the long run. Working with professionals trained to help individuals age in place will also ease the burden of these decisions. 

If you are looking down the road and have questions about setting your home up for optimal accessibility and comfort to support aging- give me a call. I will help.

We are all trying to do our best..

It's been a while since I've put up a post so I wanted to start by thanking everyone for their support and kind words about the article in the Portsmouth Herald (click the link to read- It's a surreal and exciting feeling to see your name in the paper and the idea you've been cultivating into a business come to life. 

The idea for HFA came from my own experience trying to do the right thing for my family. Trying to use my skill set to help the people I love be safe and comfortable in their home.

This past week I met with a client and she told me about her family- they sound absolutely wonderful. They are supportive, check in on her, help with any errands or help with appointments- everyone is trying to do the right thing. With all that in mind, she still needed someone to help problem solve a few ways to safely get around at home and perform some daily activities independently. She found my article online and called. 

When we met last week she asked me questions about myself, my background, the business- but one question stood out for me. She asked what the hardest part of starting this company was. My answer was/is that our healthcare system is not set up to focus on prevention. Insurance payments are dictated based on diagnoses codes, pre-approval, referrals. Annual visits are covered but there has to be a medical "reason" for an appointment to be covered for the other 364 days left in the year. 

I have worked in this industry for enough years to know the juggernauts in the health insurance business are not going to focus on prevention anytime soon. There is less money in people not getting sick. What a terrible idea. 

So instead of going along with the system I decided to try and do what I could to help as many as I could. Help people avoid entering the health care roller coaster after a preventable injury or fall. Help people maximize function and safety in their home. Trying to do my best. 

To share my experiences and the knowledge I've gained as a therapist and family member of those navigating the healthcare system.

To help answer questions people didn't know they should or could ask.

To empower individuals to make decisions based on facts and not feelings or fear. 

If you have questions, contact me to set up a time to talk. I want to help as many people as I can.

- Ashley