What Does “Aging in Place” Really Mean for Sonoma County, California Seniors?

By Frank M. Samson

Most people want to live independently as long as possible, but many of the baby boomers today are dealing with a parent or loved one who needs care at some level. This can range from everyday tasks such as meal preparation, assistance with errands, driving to doctors or to activities.

The need may also arise for assistance to move into a retirement or independent living community, assistant-living facility or even a nursing home. It is essential to communicate with an elderly parent or loved one about the various care options should the need arise.

The term “Aging in Place” is a term being used in the senior care industry for helping someone live at home instead of considering other options. Of course, most seniors want to stay in their own home, but the family must consider safety as the number one priority. If the answer to one or more of the following questions is “yes,” it may likely indicate that your loved one may need more assistance:

* Have there been medication mistakes?

* Has wandering away from home occurred?

* Is there weight loss due to lack of food and/or fluid?

* Have there been falls?

* Has the stove or toaster oven been left on?

* Is there a need for nighttime supervision?

* Is there a need for daytime supervision if alone for an extended period of time?

Care options include:

Home with Family

Caring for a senior in your home is a difficult job. You must have tremendous inner-strength, and also admit you cannot do it alone. Failing to do so will exacerbate an already difficult situation, but with the help of others, care-giving can become a much smoother process.

Safety precautions must be taken. Though falls can be prevented, they are still the number one cause of injury to a senior at home. It would be wise to have a professional who deals with design and safety advice for the elderly come to your home. This could prevent serious injuries or even death.

In-Home Care

The in-home non-medical area of health care has been one of the fastest growing new businesses throughout the country. There are dozens of companies and hundreds of independent caregivers in the North Bay alone. Examples include assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, driving to appointments, light housekeeping, laundry, shopping, preparing meals, companionship and more daily tasks.

Since these companies or individuals are not required by California to be licensed, it is imperative a thorough analysis takes place to make sure you are dealing with a reputable organization. Some of the areas to consider include but are not limited to:

* Client Reference checks

* Background checks of caregivers

* Cost comparisons

* Are caregivers employees of a company or independent contractors – which could have some implications

* Location of company and/or caregivers

* Language barriers If you are turning over the responsibility to someone to take care of your loved one, get the advice of a professional in the industry or make sure you do your research.

Independent Living Communities

These are senior housing or senior communities whose residents are at least 55-60 years of age and are in good overall health. For a loved one who is able to live by himself or herself this can be a great alternative choice. These communities are set up to keep residents active and safe. Residents will not have the usual worries, which come with the burden of owning a home. Again, seek the advice of a professional who works closely with the elderly and understands their needs.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Assisted living is probably the most misunderstood of the various senior care options. Many associate assisted living with nursing homes, but there are distinguishable differences. Nursing homes are skilled nursing facilities for those who need 24-hour medical attention. This is for those with chronic medical conditions who need skilled, long-term care, and also for short-term recovering patients after a hospital discharge.

Assisted living, on the other hand, is for those who cannot live at home anymore and need help with basic activities of daily living to more specialized areas including dementia care. There are many options available in assisted living including a range from small, family residential homes to facilities with multiple levels of care.

These homes and communities are licensed facilities by the state of California. The key is to find the right type of place for your loved one depending on their personality and needs. The right assisted living facility will provide a warm and safe environment with the hope of even improving their physical and emotional conditions.

Frank M. Samson is Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma.  The company provides free assistance to families in helping them find in-home care, independent and assisted living for their loved ones. He can be reached at 707.939.8744 or frank@seniorcareauthority.com. The company Web site is http://www.seniorcareauthority.com.