The U.S. is getting older – literally. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by the year 2034, there will be 77 million Americans aged 65 or older, outnumbering children under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history.
That makes for some significant changes within our society. Services for older Americans will increase in demand, and competition in the labor market will increase as fewer young workers will be available to replace those retiring. Additional anticipated changes include increased health spending and healthcare demand and a greater strain on Social Security.
One service that is expected to see a sharp increase in demand over the next several years is assisted living facilities, though many believe there will also be an increased desire among older Americans to age in place instead.
Considerations for aging in place
“Aging in place” is the term for remaining in your own home as you grow older rather than moving to an assisted living solution or moving in with someone who can care for you. You may have heard a loved one say, “I just want to stay in my own home.” Or perhaps you have this wish for yourself and are starting to think about how you can make that happen as the years pass.
Depending on your unique situation, it may be perfectly possible to remain at home, as long as you account for some key safety measures:
- Reduce hazards: As you or your loved one ages, reconsider area rugs, instead opting for carpeting that’s fixed to the floor to avoid tripping on raised or loose edges. For non-carpeted areas, non-skid mats can help prevent slipping, especially in spaces that are prone to getting wet or slick like the kitchen or bathroom. Use motion-activated night lights to increase visibility in low-light spots, and inspect furniture to ensure you can continue to use it safely without having to strain to reach something you need, move something out of the way, or get up from a seated position. If balance is a growing concern, consider a shower chair or railing in the shower to reduce the risk of slipping.
- Increase accessibility: Install grab bars in the bathroom – both around the shower and the toilet – and a handle at the front door to the house to make it easier to maneuver these potentially tricky spots. Replace any doorknobs, cabinet handles, or faucets that are uncomfortable to use, and rearrange furniture and belongings to be convenient as mobility declines. Make sure everything you need is within reach without requiring a step stool or reaching too far overhead. If you have stairs leading to the house, consider whether a ramp may be necessary or helpful.
- Assist your memory: Make sure you remember the most important things. Use a pill organizer to keep track of your medications. Find appliances that automatically turn off after a certain amount of time, or get in the habit of setting a timer to remind yourself to turn them off manually. Keeping a physical timer (rather than one on your phone) next to any appliance that needs to be turned off can help jog your memory. Pre-program important phone numbers into your phone, and maintain a calendar of all appointments, prescription pick-ups, and deadlines such as bills.
- Find other opportunities to make life easier: Consider grocery delivery services, prescription delivery, and lawn care professionals (or a reliable, responsible neighbor with a lawnmower). If possible, move laundry facilities to your main floor so you don’t need to walk up and down stairs with a laundry basket.
Finding simple shortcuts can help you maintain your independence longer than if you accidentally hurt yourself trying to continue doing things the way you always have. Take the time to think through what’s more important to you, and find solutions that work for your own unique circumstances.
While many of these suggestions are a matter of convenience or security, keeping track of your medications is imperative to your safety, health, and continued ability to remain on your own.
Why does medication compliance matter?
One of the most important considerations for aging in place is ensuring proper medication compliance. That means consistently taking prescribed medications when you’re supposed to. It may seem straightforward, but in reality, medication isn’t taken as directed half the time, so it’s worth discussing the importance of sticking to your medication schedule.
Prescriptions are carefully designed to address your body’s needs. Failing to follow the prescription exactly as specified by your doctor or pharmacist can lead to treatment failure or even death. Despite the consequences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that up to 30% of prescriptions are never filled, and more than half of patients prescribed medications for chronic diseases or high blood pressure take less than the prescribed amount over time.
In situations where a lack of medication compliance doesn’t result in obvious treatment failure, someone might feel justified in skipping or reducing doses. They may feel they can save money with less treatment. However, failure to maintain a medication regiment can lead to more expensive care over time, including potential hospitalizations, nursing facilities, and emergency room visits. There is also the potential for indirect costs such as lost income if the condition worsens and impedes the patient’s ability to continue working.
Some people don’t take their medications as directed because they don’t understand how and when to take them or because of cost, but many simply forget or can’t keep track of multiple medications with different schedules or requirements. That’s where pill organizer can come in handy.
How can pill reminders help?
When you have a more complex medication regiment, it can be harder to keep track of which medications need to be taken when, as well as which medications you’ve already taken. That’s where a pill organizer, or pill reminder, can be invaluable.
A pill organizer is low-tech and easy to use: simply divide out your medications into the individual compartments according to the days and times they need to be taken. You can keep your pill organizer somewhere you’re sure to see it throughout the day, like in the bathroom, kitchen, or wherever is convenient and visible for you.
Flents has options for whatever your medication situation looks like. You can keep track of up to four different times of day and plan ahead for the week or even month. The Ezy Dose® Weekly 4x a Day Med-Control Tray lists times (rather than general times of day) to further take the burden off of your memory, and various pill organizers from Ezy Dose include a push button to make it easier to open the individual compartments, a feature that has earned select products the Arthritis Foundation Ease of Use service mark.
As you prepare to continue living at home for the long haul, be sure to set yourself up for success with the safety and security measures that will allow that to be possible.
United States Census Bureau: The U.S. Joins Other Countries With Large Aging Populations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Accommodate Aging Workforce Population
Grand View Research: U.S. Assisted Living Facility Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, And Segment Forecasts, 2021-2027
RockHealth: We’ve entered an unprecedented market for aging in place
National Institutes on Aging: Aging in Place: Tips on Making Home Safe and Accessible
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Why You Need to Take Your Medications as Prescribed or Instructed
National Conference of State Legislatures: Medication Adherence: Taking Pills as Ordered