Many older adults would rather stay in their homes during the later years of their life than move into a nursing home or adult community. There are many reasons why aging in place appeals to so many. It allows people to stay in the home they love and are familiar with. It’s often more affordable for adults to remain in their homes than move to a nursing home.
Since nursing homes or assisted living facilities often have medical professionals on hand to help residents, many people wonder if aging in place is safe. As it turns out, aging in place might be a safer option for older adults, especially during a pandemic. As of the beginning of July 2020, 42% of all deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. were linked to nursing homes. More than 296,000 cases, or about 10% of the total cases in the U.S. at the beginning of July, were in nursing home residents or employees.
Why Aging in Place Is Beneficial During a Pandemic
Viruses affect different people in different ways. While someone might develop a mild illness after exposure to a virus, another person can become severely ill. Often, factors such as a person’s age, their current health and their immune system play a part in determining how sick they become after exposure to a virus. Older people are often more likely to become very sick from a virus. If they have another medical condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, their risk increases. Older people with suppressed immune systems also have a greater risk of becoming very ill.
During a pandemic, a particular disease is prevalent all over the world. In some cases, such as with the novel coronavirus, the pathogen that causes the disease is new enough that there isn’t a vaccine for it and treatment options are limited. It’s often best for people to avoid situations where they could be exposed to the virus, such as limiting social contacts or interacting with other people.
When a person lives in a nursing home, limiting contact with other people can be challenging. Even if a person has their own room or private apartment, others are likely to be coming and going from their personal space throughout the day. A nurse might stop by to check on a resident, for instance. If the nurse has recently left the room of another resident who was infected with a virus, they could spread it to other residents they contact during their shift.
If a person is aging in place, it is much easier to limit contact with the outside world. If they need medical care, they can arrange to have someone stay with them in their home. Instead of interacting with multiple people, the home health aide would only interact with that individual.
Aging in Place Allows for the Comforts of Home
Another benefit of aging in place during a pandemic is that doing so allows a person to continue to enjoy their home and familiar surroundings. When a disease is widespread and there is no cure, the best thing to do is remain home as much as possible. When a person is surrounded by the things they know and love, such as their comfortable bed, their favorite chair or framed photos of their friends and family, they are more likely to feel calm and at ease compared to if they are in a setting that doesn’t feel like home to them.
Aging in Place Allows for Socially Distant Visits
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes in the U.S. restricted visitors, meaning that residents couldn’t see their loved ones for months. The goal of the restrictions was to limit the transmission of the virus, but it also had severe social consequences.
When an individual remains in their home, there is more opportunity for them to see family and friends at a safe distance. For example, adult children can sit on the porch of their parent’s home and visit with them through a window. When the weather is nice, family and friends can visit and socialize in the person’s yard, wearing masks and keeping a safe distance apart.
Potential Drawbacks of Aging in Place
There are some potential disadvantages to aging in place, particularly in a pandemic. An older adult who usually enjoys social and community activities is likely to find those activities cut off due to social distancing requirements. For someone who is used to seeing friends at the local community center regularly, who goes out to the movies or to see plays, or who spends time at the local library or coffee shop, staying home can feel restricting and isolating.
Fortunately, modern technology makes it easy to overcome pandemic-related social isolation. An older adult can connect to friends and family through email and text messages and can use a smartphone or tablet to make video calls to their loved ones. Local community centers likely offer some programs virtually during a pandemic to continue to help people connect.
Making sure nutritional needs are met can also be a challenge when a person ages in place during a pandemic. An older adult might be fearful of visiting the grocery store and unable to afford the extra costs associated with grocery delivery. There are still many options available to ensure that a person gets the food they need during a pandemic. Some senior centers continued to offer contactless meal delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance. People have also been willing and able to pick up groceries and other necessities for their neighbors who can’t get to the store themselves.
How to Prepare for Aging in the Home
If you or your loved one decides that aging in place is the best option, you might need to make some changes to the house to make it easier to get around in and safer. Some aging-in-place home improvements include installing grab bars in the bathroom, removing area rugs and other trip hazards and installing fixtures that don’t require a strong grip to use.
In multi-story homes, installing an elevator can make it easier for an older person to travel from one floor to the next. A home elevator can also help to reduce the risk of a person tripping and falling down the stairs.
Inclinator Can Help You Age in Place Safely During a Pandemic
More and more people are choosing to age in their homes. A home elevator can help to make aging in place a safe reality for many, during a pandemic and during normal times. To learn more about the installation process and what you expect from a home elevator, find an Inclinator dealer near you today.