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Home For Life

Practical advice for creating an aging in place plan

Written By Skip Johnson
Photograph By lightpoet

According to AARP, 88 percent of people ages 50 to 80 wish to grow old in their current homes rather than move to assisted living or long-term care facilities. To remain living at home as long as possible, though, seniors must do one crucial thing. “Plan,” stresses Dr. Ashleigh Zacarias, a primary care doctor affiliated with Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “Those who plan in advance are the most successful at aging in place.”

At a minimum, a basic map for aging in place should include a healthy relationship with a primary care doctor, a living will and power of attorney (you can find these forms for free online) and directives for loved ones that make clear exactly what you want. “Of course, you have to do more than just plan,” says Dr. Zacarias, pointing out that everyone on Medicare should take advantage of Medicare’s free Annual Wellness Visits. “These visits are really important, because they go through so many questions about safety at home, traditions at home and support at home, things that you might not have time to discuss with your doctor or even thought about addressing.” Other excellent, readily available resources include the Trident Area Agency on Aging and Lowe’s Livable Home, a collaboration with AARP that educates elderly Americans on making their homes safe.

Not everyone is a good candidate for aging in place, explains Dr. Zacarias, “but you probably qualify if you have a good support system, have any chronic illnesses under control with a doctor’s help and are willing to do the work to create a plan.”

Network Connections – Start with these helpful online resources:

Roper St. Francis Home Care Services: rsfh.com/home-care
Advance Directives: rsfh.com/advance-directives
Medicare: medicare.gov
Lowcountry & Waring Senior Centers: lowcountryseniorcenter.com
Lowe’s Livable Home: lowes.com/livablehome
South Carolina Department on Aging: getcaresc.com
Trident Area Agency on Aging: tridentaaa.org

Markers for Moving – Aging in place may be your ideal, but it’s not always feasible. Here are three flags that warn you might need to consider assisted living or a nursing home:

  1. Your health is endangered. You need trained people around you to handle sudden health problems.
  2. You are likely to harm yourself. You have a history of hurting yourself intentionally or accidentally.
  3. You have no support system. You do not have family and friends who live nearby and can be relied on to help you as you age.
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