Guest essay: Aging-in-place is a lifestyle choice

Stephanie Borden

Stephanie Borden

I wish I had known about aging-in-place 10 years ago when my modest 75-year-old Minnesota mother passed out in her kitchen. When she came to and called 911, she refused to get into the ambulance until she could put on her pantyhose. On the way to the hospital, her heart stopped twice. One thousand miles away, my phone rang. It was her doctor, proclaiming "she can never live alone again."

Because we didn’t know about aging-in-place, my sister, brother and I made the best choices we could from our home bases in Oregon, Vermont and North Carolina, moving our mom from the five-bedroom home she had lovingly tended for 42 years into the best assisted living apartment we could afford. She had to give up her cat, her garden, the hair stylist who knew all her grandchildren’s names and the homemade cinnamon rolls at the local diner.

If I had known then what I know now about aging-in-place, she could have lived her last three years in her beloved home. She may not have lived longer, but I know she would have been happier.

Every day in Collier County, daughters and sons are getting the call they’ve come to fear, followed by agonizing debate over what to do with mom or dad, especially when they’ve promised their parents they’ll never put them in a nursing home. Historically, there have been two choices: invite their parent to move in with them, or sign them up for a group care facility.

As a result, 25 percent of baby boomers — typically daughters — now live with a parent. Emotionally and financially navigating the new relationship when the parent becomes the child can require a doctorate in diplomacy. Family caregivers report higher rates of disturbed sleep, back pain, anxiety and depression than non-caregivers. When families consider the assisted living option, they are often surprised by the average monthly cost of $3,131 and a median resident age of 86.9 years.

Aging-in-place may offer a better solution, preferred by 87 percent of adults over 50, according to an AARP study.

Google has more than 8 million hits for "aging-in-place," I rarely meet anyone in Southwest Florida who has heard the term.

Aging-in-place is a lifestyle choice allowing seniors to remain in their private homes and condos as long as they choose, despite declines in health, mobility, hearing, or vision.

As a certified aging-in-place specialist since 2008, I teach workshops on how to plan for aging-in-place with home modifications, home health services, innovative technology, options for transportation and socialization and funding sources.

Recognizing seniors’ preference for aging-in-place, Medicare and private insurance programs are providing more funding for services provided in the home. Recognizing the volcanic market created by aging baby-boomers, designers for Kohler, Maytag, Bosch and Samsung have launched aging-in-place elegant kitchen and bathroom lines respectful of the fact that nobody wants their home to look like a hospital room. New building materials such as nonslip flooring and bathroom coatings that inhibit bacterial growth are entering the mainstream.

Health care technology’s expansion into the home makes it possible for children living out of state to monitor their aging parent’s vital signs, eating habits and medication compliance.

Even with so many promising solutions for aging-in-place, advance planning is crucial to preserving the independence and dignity our aging parents deserve.

My next workshop, "The Daughter Dilemma: How to Keep Your Promise to Keep Your Parents Out of the Nursing Home," will be held on Sept. 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. and repeated on Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to noon. There is a $30 registration fee.

Both workshops will be held in the Naples Daily News Community Room. To register, call (239) 424-0182.

Stephanie Borden holds a bacjelor of arts degree in mass communications from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and has completed training as a family mediator at the University of South Florida and Harvard Law School. She has worked as a licensed private investigator intern and has taught workshops on aging-in-place and consumer fraud protection for the Renaissance Academy of Florida Gulf Coast University.

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