3 ways to help your loved one age in place

(BPT) - In what seemed like an instant, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. In addition to completely changing the way we work, shop and interact with others — just to name a few — it’s also forcing seniors to rethink their living arrangements and plans for the future, and changing the way we care for our elderly parents.

Given the recommendations around social distancing and documented outbreaks in nursing homes and other care facilities, more and more seniors are opting to age in place or, in other words, remain in their homes. But that’s easier said than done. Whether we’re in a pandemic or not, adjustments need to be made to ensure they have the support to do so safely.

Medication management

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and one in four take three or more. However, studies have consistently shown that 20% to 30% of prescriptions are never filled and about 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed.

“Medication compliance is one of the most frequent reasons for decompensation with chronic medical illnesses,” said Mitchell Hyatt McClure, M.D., Chief, Hospital Medicine at Hartford Hospital.

To help your loved one stay on track with their medication regimen, consider an automatic medicine dispenser like Pria™ by BLACK+DECKER. Pria is a smart pill dispenser and home healthcare assistant designed to empower seniors to maintain their independence at home. Not only does it dispense the right dose at the right time, but it also allows caregivers to stay connected through two-way video calls, reminders and check-ins.

When using Pria for more than 90 days, users’ average adherence rate was 82% — up from 39% when used for fewer than 45 days. Caregiver presence also positively influences medication adherence when using Pria. Users with one caregiver had an average adherence rate of 79.4%, users with two caregivers were at 80.9% and users with three caregivers were up to 88.2%.

“An electronic pill dispenser like Pria can be invaluable for patients in promoting better health by improving medication compliance and reinforcing good health habits. The ability to additionally use Pria as a tool to communicate is an added benefit to combat social isolation, a problem that already existed in our elderly patients, but has been made increasingly worse by the COVID pandemic,” said McClure.

Remote monitoring

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), an older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Furthermore, falls — with or without injury — can greatly impact seniors’ quality of life. A fear of falling creates a sense of uneasiness that often leads to a decrease in activity, which can, in turn, lead to physical decline, depression, social isolation and feelings of helplessness.

But caregivers can provide active loved ones with confident mobility simply by investing in a remote monitoring device. Whether it’s a necklace equipped with GPS, a smartwatch that can detect a fall and automatically alert emergency services, an in-home device that connects directly to emergency response operators or a combination of the three, your loved one will be able to age in place with the peace of mind that they have access to help should they need it.

Home modifications

Most homes aren’t designed for long-term care. However, simple home modifications can make it easier — and safer — for seniors to age in place. And when it comes to home modifications, the possibilities are endless.

When deciding which modifications to make, walk around the house with your loved one and identify their specific pain points. If they fear slipping in the shower, add a shower chair; if the front steps lack support, install railings; if their hardwood floors are slippery, lay down no-slip mats for traction. There are a number of options, both temporary and permanent, that can help your loved one stay in their home safely and comfortably.

The coronavirus pandemic has put our aging population at great risk, so it should come as no surprise that many seniors have opted to age in place. While it may be uncomfortable for family caregivers to accept this decision, it can be incredibly fulfilling and liberating for seniors when planned for properly. By utilizing available technology and making modifications where necessary, most seniors can remain happy, healthy and independent in their own homes.