Our Blog

Reflection on the NJAAW Housing Series

A guest blog by William Cotrone, NJAAW intern

As the global population continues to grow/age, appropriate housing for older adults is now more important than ever. Most of NJ’s current housing stock was built for young able-bodied adults and nuclear families.

Currently, 30% of homeowners in the US are single and live alone. By 2030, 20% of the US population will be considered “senior citizens,” and most older adults would prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible. But what if their home is not designed to accommodate them as they age? Fortunately, there are solutions.

Staying in Your Home

Adaptations and renovations can allow people to stay in their homes safely for longer.

For example, AARP has a free HomeFit Guide that explains how to incorporate universal design principles and products into homes, which are safe and easy to use. Most of the elements in the guide can be done without professional assistance

Another option is to hire either an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) who is also a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). These individuals can make recommendations on how to repurpose your home to reflect your functional, mobility, and cognitive needs so that you can live safely and comfortably.

A CAPS will examine such things as the entry and/or foyer (Is it clutter free? Is there a rug that could cause a person to slip and fall? Is there enough light?). If an individual requires a mobility device such as a walker or wheelchair, are doorways and hallways wide enough to pass? In the kitchen, a CAPS will scrutinize chair height so that sitting and rising are made easier, floor space so that mobility devices can pass, lighting to assist people with visual challenges, etc.

Probably the most important place to have examined is the bathroom, especially since 80% of falls occur here.

Probably the most important place to have examined is the bathroom, especially since 80% of falls occur here. A CAPS can make recommendations on toilet height, grab bars, slip mats or bathroom chairs for the shower area.

For the rest of the house, stairs should be well lit and have handrails. Another option is a chair lift to take older adults up and down. Smart technology devices might also be beneficial for such functions as turning on the lights or a faucet.

For outside the home, thoughtful landscaping or therapy gardens make a great addition. Engaging with nature has an immense list of health benefits, so make an outdoor space age-friendly. Comfortable furniture for the patio area, safe walkways, good lighting and smart technology increase the ability to enjoy outdoors safely.

Getting Help in the Home

Knowing when help is needed and how to find it can be challenging. One option is to hire assistance directly or via an agency. While Home Health Care (HHC) covers skilled support services (including RN/PT/OT) and is usually paid for by Medicare or insurance following a hospital stay or during recovery, older adults may need a lower level of care to assist them with activities of daily living (ADLs). These services, such as toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, moving, and grooming, can be provided by Certified Home Health Aides (CHHAs). However, CHHA services often have very limited insurance coverage, leaving most people to pay out of pocket.

When deciding what type of provider to employ, consider the following: A family member/caregiver who hires privately may save money, but the “employee” might not have the proper skill set or be insured. Engaging an agency is more expensive. However, such added benefits as knowing that the agency has supervision, specific hiring requirements, insurance, licensed staff, and compliance policies, are often worth the extra cost.

Another option is Adult Day Care. These programs provide care and companionship for older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. This provides caregivers with a much-needed break and allows them to go to work, school, do housekeeping, etc. Research has shown that social interaction in a Day Care setting improves an older adult’s mental, physical and emotional health as well as reduces the risk of developing depression and dementia.

Finally, for people who need more help or are near nursing-level care, PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs allow people to remain at home. While limited geographically, the number of PACE programs in NJ is increasing. More information can be found here.

Residential Options

When staying in one’s home is no longer possible, what are the options to choose from and how does one assess them?

First, independent living is an option for older adults who do not have severe physical or cognitive challenges. An independent living environment usually includes age-friendly features like grab bars, walk-in showers, emergency response services, community dining, age-appropriate entertainment, transportation services, etc. They are relatively affordable at market prices and many are designated as “affordable housing.” If needed, home care, paid by the resident, can be arranged.

The next option is assisted living. Residents of an assisted living community tend to have physical or cognitive challenges but are still able to retain some autonomy. Assisted living units are often smaller than independent living settings because they lack some of the customary rooms of a typical house, like a kitchen. Staff can help residents with ADLs and medication management.

The third option is a long-term care (LTC) facility or a traditional “nursing home,” which provides shelter and around-the-clock care for people with ADL and health difficulties. Reasons for seeking LTC might include that a person suffered a severe injury or medical emergency and needs rehabilitation to return home, or their physical/mental state is diminishing, which could make them susceptible to injuries or illnesses. Long-term care facilities can also provide hospice care and many offer memory units.

Pulling these options together is the “Life Plan Model,” also known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Residents can transition their living situation and care level without having to transfer out of the facility. For example, a typical transition might be going from independent living to assisted living or independent living to rehabilitation. This may be the appropriate option for couples where one needs care services and the other doesn’t.

For all of the options in getting help in the home, or relocating to an age-focused place, it is important to plan ahead.

For all of the options in getting help in the home, or relocating to an age-focused place, it is important to plan ahead. Unless related to a hospital stay, Medicare does not pay for home care or long-term care. If someone qualifies for Medicaid or affordable housing, eligibility should be established as early as possible. Long-term care insurance or private insurance may cover some costs, but most people will be paying out of pocket.

Aging is like the weather. You can plan for it, and anticipate what will happen, but you won’t know until it actually happens. Like the weather, aging and finances can change unexpectedly. Older adults deserve to live with dignity and comfort. They deserve affordable, appropriate and accessible housing and must plan ahead and know their options.

Click here for a summary of NJAAW’s Housing Series and links to the four recorded sessions.

William Cotrone recently graduated from Bates College with a degree in psychology and is and future medical student (hopefully in a field related to aging). He previously interned at senior residential sites in Lewiston, ME.

Home is where the heart is

by NJAAW Executive Director Cathy Rowe, DrPH

I recently had a discussion with one of my oldest and best friends. Both of her parents, who no longer drive, are facing physical challenges as they age in their bi-level home in the suburbs.

My friend and her siblings help with doctors’ appointments, meals and whatever else possible, while working, raising their kids and doing the things we all need to do.

When I suggested that my friend look into getting help, she immediately replied, “I am not sending my parents to a nursing home!”

This was the inspiration for NJAAW’s Housing Series webinars in February.

I will leave my friend’s name out, just in case she is reading this blog, but I think her reaction is one that many people have because they are not aware of the range of housing options for older adults.

There isn’t one large leap from living independently in one’s home to needing assisted living — there are numerous steps and choices.

There isn’t one large leap from living independently in one’s home to needing assisted living – there are numerous steps and choices.

Housing needs are not clear-cut nor consistent. There are a continuum of needs, finances, preferences and opportunities.

Housing is likely the biggest investment most of us will ever make — our home becomes a place we can call our sanctuary, and build memories. As such, the “where” and “how” we live are among the most important decisions we make. And these decisions cannot — or should not — be made suddenly or in a moment of crisis.

According to statistics, more than 23% of NJ’s total population is over 60 — and by the year 2030, all Baby Boomers will be of retirement age. Additionally, studies show that the majority of adults 50+ wish to remain in their homes and/or communities as long as possible, with a sense of independence and connection.

We need to spend time educating ourselves about available options, planning in advance for adapting our current home, exploring our next home and preparing for change.

We need to spend time educating ourselves about available options, planning in advance for adapting our current home, exploring our next home and preparing for change.

For all of these reasons, we are hosting the NJAAW Housing Series, bringing together experts in the realm of NJ housing to explore options at each stage and need, to help you make informed decisions for yourself or for the older adults in your life.

The series takes place online on consecutive Wednesdays in February at 4 p.m.

Speakers will explain strategies to help you stay in your homes with modifications and built design. They will also discuss options for getting help in the home, downsizing and when assisted and supportive living becomes necessary.

You’ll find more information at njaaw.org/events. Please register once for Zoom links to all four sessions Those who register will also have on-demand access to session recordings.

Special thanks to our sponsors for letting us provide this series at no cost to NJ residents: Raise the Roof Sponsors Parker Health Group, Inc. and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NJ, Build the Walls Sponsors AARP NJ and New Jersey Relay & CapTel and Lay the Foundation Sponsor Springpoint.

I hope you can join us!

Aging Insights and You- Fall Prevention

                                                           Press Release

Aging Insights and YouРFall Prevention 

Trenton– The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is a public charity with the primary goal to empower elders to live in the community with independence and dignity.¬† The strategies to age well are voluminous.¬† Consequently, the Foundation uses several outreach and educational tools to highlight resources to age well.¬† For example, Aging Insights is a ¬? hour TV program that is produced monthly by the Foundation. ¬†September is Fall Prevention Month. The September program touches on ways to stay strong and healthy in order to avoid falls as well as other medical ailments.

Over the last two years an expansive range of shows have been produced by the Foundation. Utility assistance will be discussed in October to get folks ready for the winter heat season.  Other topics have included pet health, driver safety, community transportation, fitness, money management, foreclosure prevention and County resources.  Why so many topics?  Grace Egan, the Executive Director indicates “that these are topics relevant to boomers, caregivers and seniors. Our intent is to connect them to community programs to address their unique needs and those of their families”.  NJFA seeks sponsorships to underwrite these community education TV programs that are broadcast more than 300 times a month across NJ. The show is broadcast to an area of more than 6 million residents. Sponsorship opportunities are listed on the NJFA website www.njfoundationforaging.org

NJFA is pleased to announce the release of the 24th episode of Aging Insights, the Foundation‚Äôs TV program. This episode, Balance for Body and Mind, will be broadcast in September 2013. The program is available to public access stations and may also be seen on NJFA’s YouTube channel, www.Youtube.com/njfoundationforaging¬†

This episode is hosted by NJFA Program Manager, Melissa Chalker and she is joined by Siobhan Hutchinson, a Holistic Health Practitioner and Tai Chi Chih instructor and Romy Toussaint, a yoga instructor. Both guests share information about their respective practices, provide tips, as well as discuss the benefits of each. A demonstration of both Tai Chi Chih and Yoga can also be seen in this episode. Please visit NJFA’s website to take the new online survey for Aging Insights. We want to know what you think of the show and what topics you’d like to hear next!

On the set from left to right: Melissa Chalker, Siobhan Hutchinson, and Romy Toussaint

To learn more about the work of the Foundation visit www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging was established in 1998, its mission is promote policy and services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence and dignity.

###

How Are You Being Creative

How are you being creative?

In the recent issue of Renaissance Magazine (May/June 2011) we featured an article by Mercer County Office on Aging Director, Eileen Doremus. In the article Ms. Doremus talks about creative ways to engage older adults living in residential care settings (assisted livings, nursing facilities, etc). The article also featured some information on how some NJ Activity/Recreation professionals are being creative, as well as, what their challenges are for remaining creative in those settings.

Creativity often grows when you share ideas with others, given that, Ms. Doremus was interested upon completing her article with what others might have to add. So, NJFA gladly welcomes you to share here on our blog and comments, challenges, ideas or feedback on creativity in residential settings for older adults. This has the potential to be a great discussion, so get to it! Creativity is all about sharing!

To see the article please visit: www.njfoundationforaging.org/ren.html