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Services to Help Mom Age at Home

by Wendie Howland, Life Care Planning Expert, LNCC
May 11, 2012

Question: What services are available to help my mother remain in home for the rest of her life?

Answer: Life Care Plans are tools to help learn about and plan for expected needs over a person's life expectancy. This includes costs for medical care, such as equipment, physician and nursing care, medicines, and therapies, and also includes less-obvious things like goods and services to help with safe aging in place, transportation needs, and home modifications.  You are wise to think of this in advance of a sudden need. A certified nurse life care planner can prepare a long term care plan to help a family understand what changes may occur with aging, too. With the aged population growing, nurse life care planners have the benefit of an explosion of technologies and services aimed at maintaining or improving quality of life for elders who wish to remain at home. "Aging in place" technology and architecture are hot topics in life care planning. Let's look at just a few of them.

Safety is always first. Better lighting, safer floor surfaces, kitchen modifications to decrease fire risk, and a huge array of bathroom safety items are often the first considerations. Although these are often marketed to the public, it's not as easy as, "Put some grab bars and a ramp in." An expert nurse life care planner will be able to assess your mother and her home to see what her particular needs are, not just for the present but for the future as she ages.

Many seniors take multiple medications, and can become confused about when to take them. The nurse life care planner can recommend technology to help your mother take her medications properly, from a simple wristwatch that announces that it's time to take them, to reminders sent to a cell phone, to dispensing systems that can be filled with medications for a week or thirty days-- and notify you at your home computer that she has taken them.

While the idea of remote monitoring sounds intrusive, many seniors find that it gives them peace of mind. Sensors around the home can let a loved one know online when an elder parent has arisen, left the bedroom, entered the bathroom or kitchen, or opened the front door. Sometimes this alone is enough to assure family that the elder is safe. Setting up a video link that comes to a family member's home computer is also possible.

The nurse life care planner will also look ahead to the possibility that she will need in-home support. This can include something as simple as meals on wheels, a homemaker to do a little light housework and shopping, or visiting nursing services available without a physician prescription for private pay or as covered by insurance. The life care plan will also include information on what equipment would be useful, such as a special bed or mobility aids, their costs and where to obtain them in the most cost-effective way.

In the last months of life, family involvement, assistance from a certified nurse aid, and support from the Medicare hospice benefit can make a world of difference for quality of life, at home.

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She is owner and principal of Howland Health Consulting, offering life care planning, case management, and legal nurse consulting services nationwide, primarily for persons with catastrophic or chronic injury or illness. She has a master's degree in nursing and holds national certifications in rehabilitation nursing, case management, and life care planning.

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