Understanding seniors’ housing options is pretty complicated stuff.
From all the clients I work with, it is by far the most complex issue we deal with.
Last week we introduced the idea of how to assess the type of housing best for you or your loved one.
There is a great tool on the internet, although it is from the States. You can find it at www.seniorhousingnet.com/care-selection/evaluate.aspx.
I actually want to take a step back and present the scenario that an aging loved one and/or couple want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. This is actually a “senior housing option” and shouldn’t be overlooked.
I can’t possibly cover all the aspects however, at the very least, this column should give you a better idea of doing your own personal assessment, for yourself or for a loved one.
Find a quarterback
It is typically best to have one point person or “quarterback” to keep the process going and make sure everyone involved understands what’s being discussed and decided. Typically one person takes on this primary role and in a way becomes the “case manager.”
This might be because he or she lives close by, has a relationship with the loved one that lends itself to discussing difficult topics, or simply because he or she is a take-charge person.
Assess the Situation
Seniors and their families want to scan the overall picture and find out what’s working well and what isn’t. This provides a benchmark to compare with down the road if health or mental abilities change. This includes:
• The ability to function independently and perform the basic activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing meal preparation and medication management. One way to assess the functional health of an aging loved on is to determine how well the individual can perform the everyday tasks independently.
• Cognitive ability and emotional health including how good is short-term memory, decision-making and common sense? How easily confused is the individual? Safety level in their current living environment, i.e., can they get out of the house safely in an emergency, do they know who to call? Are they easily confused?
• What financial resources are available for additional private services and/or more supportive housing? What formal services are they currently accessing, if any.
• What do private insurers cover and are there other government programs available to support additional services? For example, this might include extended private health insurance, Veterans Affairs, eligibility and support from Vancouver Island Health Authority, etc.
• Is social support high? Are neighbours, friends or parish members available to help? Is the senior at risk of isolation (living in a more rural area) and/or loneliness?
Using the information gathered from above, families and seniors can better answer the question, “Is staying in our home the best option for us?”
If it is the best option, the next step involves prioritizing the most important needs. It’s impossible to anticipate every single need.
Possible solutions can be identified with information on how to access support and what resources (private care, equipment, services) including financial are needed to support staying in one’s home.
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.