As people get older, their health care needs change. The body’s abilities don’t necessarily diminish, but things may be less easy than they used to be. The mind may not stay as sharp as in youth; while senility and dementia are by no means inevitable, a brain full of memories and experiences is going to take slightly longer with mundane tasks. Physical weakness isn’t inevitable either, but here again the years of wear and tear can take their toll. That’s why it’s important for the more than 40 million elderly people in the United States—and those who care about if not necessarily for them—to be fully informed on their options, in order to make the best decision.
That’s because it is generally considered best—by experts, by families, not least by elderly people themselves—for people to live as independently as they can, as late in life as is feasible. Studies have found that as many as 90 percent of elderly people want to remain in their own homes as long as they can manage it. For this to be possible, it is necessary for elderly individuals to work with their families and doctors to figure out what is necessary to make this happen.
Some people have no trouble living independently. They show no signs of being unable to take care of themselves, they live full lives, age is just a number. This is the ideal situation for many people. The best way for a person to maintain their independence is to maintain their health. Taking classes can help keep the mind healthy, and physical exercise helps preserve both body and mind. Plenty of calcium and commonsense fall prevention can help with the biggest danger to otherwise healthy older adults. Avoiding boredom is always nice, but for older people on their own and trying to live at home, it can be crucial.
If more is needed, in-home care can bridge the gap. Perhaps a nurse will visit regularly, every day or two, to make sure the resident is all right, that medications are being taken appropriately, that the person is eating and cleaning and everything else. In some cases, such as when the person has no unusual medical needs beyond taking medicines, family can fill his role if they live in the area, calling and or visiting two or three times a week. The next step up is a live-in nurse or companion. These health-care workers help elderly patients with basic needs, while making it possible for them to stay in their homes.