There's No Place Like Home - For Growing Old

"The stairs are getting so hard to climb."
"Since my wife died, I just open a can of soup for dinner."
"I've lived here 40 years. No other place will seem like home."

These are common concerns for older people. And, you may share an often-heard wish-"I want to stay in my own home!" The good news is that with the right help you might be able to do just that.

What do I do first?

Think about the kinds of help you might want in the near future. Planning ahead is hard because you never know how your needs might change. Maybe you live alone, so there is no one to help you. Maybe you don't need help right now, but you live with a husband or wife who does. Whatever your situation, start by looking at any illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, or emphysema that you have. Then talk to your doctor about how these health problems could make it hard for you to get around or take care of yourself in the future. Help getting dressed in the morning, fixing a meal, or remembering to take medicine may be all you need to stay at home.

As you read on, you will learn about the kinds of help that you might want to look for where you live. You will read about people and places to go to for more information about the resources near you-from people in your community to the Federal Government. If you are worried about how much this help will cost, you will see that we have tried to give you suggestions for free or low cost help, as well as some that cost more. There are also ways to find out if there are any benefits that apply to you. Last, there is a list of groups to contact for more detailed answers to your questions. Share this information with others in your family, and use it as a stepping stone to begin talking about your needs-now and in the future.

How can I help my older relatives stay in their home?

Some people start having trouble doing everyday activities like shopping, cooking, and taking care of their home or themselves as they grow older. Is that happening to any of your relatives-your parents or an aunt or uncle, for example? If so, talk to them about getting help. Offer to get information for them. Think about what you and others in the family can do to help. Talk to your friends whose relatives may be facing the same kinds of problems. Ask about the solutions they found. Then sit down and tell your relatives what you have learned. Together you can decide what to do.

What kinds of help can I get?

You can get almost any type of help you want in your home-often for a cost. The following list includes some common things people need. You can get more information on many of these services from your local Area Agency on Aging, local and State offices on aging or social services, tribal organization, or nearby senior centers.

Personal care. Is bathing, washing your hair, or dressing getting harder to do? Maybe a relative or friend could help you. Or, you could hire someone trained to help you for a short time each day.

Homemaking. Do you need help with chores like housecleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, or laundry? Some grocery stores and drug stores will take your order over the phone and bring the items to your home. There are cleaning services you can hire, or maybe someone you know has a housekeeper to suggest. Some housekeepers will help with laundry. Some drycleaners will pick up and deliver your clothes.

Meals. Tired of cooking every day or of eating alone? Maybe you could share cooking with a friend a few times a week or have a potluck dinner with a group of friends. Sometimes meals are served at a nearby senior center, church, or synagogue. Eating out may give you a chance to visit with others. Is it hard for you to get out? Ask someone you know to bring you a healthy meal a few times a week. Also, programs like Meals on Wheels bring hot meals into your home.

Money management. Are you paying bills late or not at all because it's tiring or hard to keep track of them? Are doctors' bills and health insurance claim forms confusing? Ask a trusted relative to lend a hand. If that's not possible, volunteers, financial counselors, or geriatric care managers can help. Just make sure you get the name from a trustworthy source, like your local Area Agency on Aging. Would you like to lighten the load of paying bills yourself? Talk with someone at your bank. You might also be able to have regular bills, like utilities and rent or mortgage, paid directly from your checking account.

Health care. Do you forget to take your medicine? There are devices available to remind you when it is time to take it. Have you just gotten out of the hospital and still need nursing care at home for a short time? Medicare might pay for a home health aide to come to your home.