Feature Archive

Choosing to Live at Home

You don't need to stay in a nursing home to get good care.

WebMD Feature

May 8, 2000 -- When Sharon Miles' elderly mother grew frail a dozen years ago in Albuquerque, mother and daughter had a problem. "I was taking care of her with no support system here in town," says Sharon Miles. "It was overwhelming. She needed help bathing, eating, getting around. Finally, I had to place her in a nursing home even though neither of us wanted that." It was one of the toughest decisions Miles had ever made.

"Now, by contrast, people don't have to do that until it's really necessary," she says. Staying at home, or "aging in place," as it has become known, while not necessarily inexpensive, is becoming increasingly feasible for many older people. And Miles herself has become part of the solution.

After the experience with her mother, Miles returned to school for a degree in social work, with course work in gerontology, and gained experience arranging care for seniors at an HMO. Then, as a member of the relatively new profession of geriatric care managers, she formed her own company. Her current clients, most of them in their mid-80s, all live at home with outside help -- coordinated by Miles.

Putting Together a Plan

As a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, Miles specializes in helping seniors live independently for as long as possible in their own homes -- which, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), is what 85% of them want to do. Care managers can assess what's needed, arrange for services, help with legal, financial, and insurance issues, coordinate various government, private, and community services, offer counseling, and act as a liaison for distant families.