9 things you can do to stay independent as you age

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One of the most important decisions as you age is where you will age. Three-quarters of adults in a 2018 AARP survey said they wanted to stay home, but only 59% thought they could. If you prefer to stay home, here are nine steps you can take: Falls are the most common cause of trauma-related non-fatal hospital admissions for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of Americans age 65 and older fall each year.

A fall can trigger a decline in functioning “which can affect your ability to remain independent,” explains Liz Barlowe, manager of senior life care at Barlowe & Associates in Seminole, Fla. Falls are the result of muscle weakness , vision problems, drug side effects, nutrition, chronic diseases, and unsafe home environments. The National Council on Aging has a questionnaire to determine if you are at risk. To prevent falls: Talk to your doctor about weakness, dizziness, or vision problems, managing chronic health conditions, and medication side effects. The doctor may have some helpful ideas. Have an occupational therapist evaluate your home for problems with lighting, tripping hazards, stairs, and bathroom safety. This professional can offer practical safety tips. Keep moving. “Do regular strength and balance exercises like tai-chi,” suggests Dr. Nirmala Gopalan, medical director of the geriatric clinic at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California. Continuous mobility is essential to prevent falls. Once you fall, fear is common, but reducing your activity only makes you more prone to falls. Instead, learn to modify your movements and your environment to make the activity safe. 2. Work with experts Switching to a geriatrician for primary care, for example, helps preserve independence. Geriatricians are trained to handle the complexity of multiple complicated health problems “and to know the difference between normal aging and more serious diseases,” Gopalan says. See also: We want to buy a house on 10 open acres and live on $ 50,000 a year, where should we retire? “An older person’s body metabolizes drugs differently. Geriatricians are trained to recognize side effects and drug interactions in older people and to manage polypharmacy. [the simultaneous use of multiple drugs by a single patient] safely, ”says Gopalan. See a geriatrician “when your health begins to affect your mental or physical well-being and activities of daily living,” advises Dr. Alicia Arbaje, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Some reasons may be: (you) go in and out of the hospital a lot, take a lot of medications, or (have) difficulties with mobility, memory, or medication,” adds Arbaje, who is also president of the American Geriatrics Association. . education committee. Geriatric care managers are also key. They identify what you need help with and help you find the right services. Kizzy Chambers, a licensed professional care manager and clinical social worker with RR Care Management in Orlando, Florida, recommends “consulting with a care manager as soon as there is a concern or when a family member is overwhelmed by the taking care of your loved ones. “For referrals,“ call your local area Agency on Aging, ”says Emily Greenfield, associate professor of social work at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. You can also use the Eldercare Locator from the federal government Stay Mentally Active Keeping your brain healthy is key and helps you stay at home A study in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior showed that mind-stimulating games and activities preserved cognitive functioning in older adults. And a study from Harvard Medical School showed that thinking skills, which decline with age, can be sharpened with Mental games. Think of your brain as a muscle. You need to modify your exercise programs to make sure you are using different muscles to build your body, ”says Barlowe. To keep your brain in peak condition, Arbaje recommends a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Gopalan says that daily physical activity, fresh air and sunlight “are very stimulating for the brain” and that the key is always “to focus on enjoyment and not achievement.” 4. Access support services To stay at home, “it is important that people feel independent and self-sufficient,” says Arbaje. To do that, “be open to the idea of ​​outsourcing,” Barlowe recommends. Receiving grocery delivery can help. If you are intimidated by online platforms and applications, Instacart offers dedicated “Senior Support Specialists” who help customers place orders over the phone. Caregivers can arrange restaurant meal delivery through DoorDash or Uber UBER, -0.18% Eats, or pre-made frozen meals through services like Freshly. Meals on Wheels is also an option. Amazon AMZN, -0.27% has an autoship option where family members can place necessary items for their loved ones on a monthly autoship program. “Many of the Medicare managed care insurance plans [Medicare Advantage] allow insured individuals to order medical and non-medical supplies, such as gloves, over-the-counter medications and adult underpants, ”says Chambers. Most pharmacies also deliver. You may be interested in: Aging and the ‘Japanese Secret Art’ of Gratitude For patients who need care at the nursing home level, PACE (Comprehensive Care Programs for the Elderly) programs provide in-home services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy , meals, lab services, transportation to medical appointments and more. State Area Agencies on Aging can connect older residents with services at home, such as assistance with housework and meal delivery. 5. Discuss reductions in health care It seems counterintuitive to reduce health care as you age, but “we often rely too heavily on too many health care providers, tests and procedures,” says Arbaje. “These have complications, especially medications.” Reducing “is not a denial of care, but an assessment of the burdens versus the benefits of specific care,” says Dr. Tracy English, a nurse practitioner at Long Life Care Management in McDonough, Georgia. For example, the American Medical Association recommends against routine colonoscopies for patients over 75 years of age due to the risks involved. Some studies show that statins (prescribed for high cholesterol) may have more side effects and fewer benefits for older adults. Benzodiazepines (used for anxiety, depression, and seizures) can cause memory problems in older patients. Barlow advises taking the time to consider what your doctor is ordering or recommending. “Talk to your doctor about how you feel about your care as you age and what is important to you: independence, optimal function, and quality of life,” he says. Arbaje suggests that older adults “review the risks and benefits (of treatments) frequently, as these change over time.” 6. Maintain relationships Social and family connections support mental health, such as the ability to manage stress and prevent depression. Tam Perry, associate professor of social work at Wayne State University in Detroit, suggests that older adults find ways to give and receive support. “Helping other people can be just as important, and sometimes even more, to our well-being,” he says. Family relationships are key to managing the challenges of staying at home. A joint report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 89% of caregivers of older adults are family members. Stay flexible “Change is necessary, and instead of being forced, think about taking the initiative,” says Barlowe. “Stay focused on your goal of living independently and be open to the possibilities that will help you.” A study in Cell Press found that aging makes the brain less adaptable to change. Older people can become resistant to things like taking new medications or making home modifications. (A separate study found that medication non-compliance led to 23% of all nursing home admissions.) Studies also show that home modifications allow older adults to maintain their activity level for at least two years. So staying open to this is key. In addition, Barlowe notes, “I have met more people who out of vanity reject a walker but walk around their house holding onto furniture because it is so unstable. Using a supportive device can allow you to remain independent safely. ” 8. Start saving money. Staying home can be expensive. “[In-home] The costs of care are very high and an important factor in being able to continue to stay at home when someone becomes dependent with multiple medical conditions, ”says Gopalan. Rates for non-medical assistants (for things like housework, meals, and errands) range from $ 16 to $ 28 per hour, depending on where you live. Home health aides can cost up to $ 30 per hour. See: All the Ways Seniors Mismanage Their Money and How to Avoid Them Home modifications can range from inexpensive changes (intermittent railings or doorbells) to major expenses like stair lifts. Medicare does not cover home modifications. Medicaid may provide some coverage, but each state’s program is different. Start saving for these costs now. “Older people who have paid a mortgage and invested in accommodations to minimize the effects of disability are better off,” says Stephen Albert, professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and editor of Innovation in Aging magazine. .9. Have a Plan Staying in your own home requires thinking ahead. If you have chronic conditions, talk with your doctor to understand how the disease might progress so that you can anticipate how to manage it in the future. Plan how you will get help when you need it. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PER) [also called medical alert systems] they are effective and efficient, says Chambers. “The PERs allow for a faster response time by first responders and medical care to be provided,” he adds. See: Do you have a disaster plan for your parents? Arbaje says the most important thing is to talk with the family “about what you would want if you got sick: who will take care of you, who will take care of the pets and who will take care of your spouse. Brette Sember is the author of many books on divorce, child custody, business, health, food, and travel. Write content online and do indexing and editing. This article has been reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved. More from Next Avenue: