Small changes help seniors age in place

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There's no place like home.

Aging in place keeps a senior in their own comfortable, familiar surroundings.

Often the changes needed to improve the safety of the home are minor. If extra assistance is needed, sometimes just a little bit of help makes all the difference.

Assistance with the yard work, housework, shopping or meal delivery can be integral to an older person remaining safe and happy at home.

Take a good look around your house to spot any potential safety hazards. Get rid of anything you could trip or fall over: Throw rugs, bunched up extension cords, broken concrete or anything else that's a fall hazard, needs to go. Sometimes the home itself needs some adjustments and some may be quite small.

If you don't have hand rails on the stairs, inside and out, that's a small fix but important for your protection.

Cabinets can be adjusted, doorways changed, bathroom fixtures modified as well as lighter colors painted on stairs and edges of elevation changes, according to www.seniorresource.com.

Many businesses and organizations serve seniors and can provide additional help with these safety issues when necessary.

Sometimes there is a qualifying process, and sometimes not, depending on the nature of the organization and help needed.

A good first step might be to talk with a trusted friend, family member or doctor. Get some ideas about what changes can be made for your home to be more accommodating as you grow older. Safety is key.

At The Center at the Park, Peggy Needham, coordinator of RSVP said, "You have to remember that old adage that when it comes to falls, you need to clear the clutter and make sure you have good lighting. And know what services are available. There's Meals On Wheels and grocery shopping through RSVP and Walla Walla's Harvest Foods."

She also encouraged seniors to get an idea of what aging in place actually means.

Look at individual needs, talk with your family and do some research. You have plenty of options.

"You can benefit from an environment with just a little bit of help," Needham said. "If you fall and break a hip your choices are taken away." Prepare so you can prevent those things and focus on personal safety.

Needham also suggested an emergency pendant, so that if you are ill or have been injured you can press a button and call for help.

Several companies offer medical pendants for seniors. According to Needham, a pendant around your neck gives you easier access than a cell phone that could drop out of your pocket or have a dead battery at the very worst moment.

Howard Ostby, director of the Senior Roundtable at The Center at the Park, said that home-delivered meals from Meals on Wheels can help seniors stay in their homes. Meals are available to those 60 and older and their spouses. Staying at home is much less expensive, according to Ostby.

"Rather than spending over $6,000 a month in a nursing home...The home delivered meals, along with other types of in-home care rounds it out. If you're caring for someone, a spouse or a relative, you don't have to cook. An older person may not have the energy to cook or do the dishes or go shopping for food."

Those problems are solved by the convenient, home-delivered meals, according to Ostby.

"It's delivered right to your door. Many seniors don't drive. Or maybe they've been sick and they need to stay home and build up their strength." The home delivered meals can be a temporary service as well as long term.

"You can get a hot meal at noon or a frozen meal for later," he said.

"We do have vegetarian food and there are menus available. It really saves on the pocketbook."

The senior also doesn't have the expense of the gasoline and time to go to the store to do the shopping. Another big plus is that it's a healthy meal, no junk food.

"It's a balanced meal, that's not easy to do on your own," Ostby explained.

"The big thing is that it keeps you in your own home, your familiar, comfortable location. You're happier in your own environment. Also, when we're delivering, we're looking in on clients, a connection with the outside world. And everybody has an emergency contact. We look in on them to make sure they're OK." If something is not right, the client doesn't come to the door or doesn't seem well, the contact person is notified and they can check on their loved one.

"We also have connections to other social service agencies," Ostby said. If the senior needs help, they can get information about possible options.

Seniors can also visit www.seniorresource.com for a list of ideas and concerns about aging in place.

You've changed as your life has progressed. If you want to age at home, your home can certainly change to accommodate your situation.

For more information call the Center at the Park, 720 Sprague Ave., 509-527-3775.

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