I was recently commissioned by Premier Care in Bathing to give my thoughts on the following topic: Premier Care in Bathing is one of the first ever companies to specialise in the installation of bathrooms specifically designed for customers with mobility needs. They are on a mission to encourage families to talk more openly about getting older and future-proofing their home.
I sadly don’t have any grandparents anymore. Both my Nan and my husbands grandmother had Alzheimer’s and things reached a point where they needed 24 hour care, so they had to go into a home. I know this is something my mum particularly struggled with when it came to her own mum. And this is reflected in her views about what she want for herself as she gets older.
As much as discussing these things can seem morbid, or a long way off, it is important to know where everyone stands.
I asked my Mum the following questions about getting older and future-proofing her home and life.
Would you prefer to stay home or move where you can get support as you get older (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)?
Mum: I would prefer to stay at home. l would consider sheltered housing as the best option if l felt my home was becoming a burden.
Me: I can completely understand that. My fear would be perhaps if we could see that the house was becoming too much for you and we were worried about you having a fall, How could we protect you in the interim period, until you decide you are ready to move?
What do you think would be the most challenging aspect about staying home as you get older?
Mum: Keeping on top of the Garden, and the running costs of a larger home.
Me: Well I could say hire a gardener, but that just adds to the running costs! I think in the same way a house can grow and adapt with you, then a garden can too. We could make it more low maintenance, and we would have to clear the leaves for you on weekends. I know you would be happy to downsize to reduce the running costs, but Dad wouldn’t. I’ll have to leave them to argue that one out!
My concern would be more around mobility. Both mobility around the house, and if driving becomes an issue, getting out and about too. there isn’t really a reliable bus service near you, Plus last time I took you on a bus you held on like it was a white knuckle ride!!!
Have you ever considered making home improvements, such as safety measures or home adaptations to enable you to stay home for longer?
Mum: Yes. I would consider stair lifts and mobility aids. if I needed them.
Me: There are so many great products like shower seats and bath lifts that make future-proofing your home simpler. Years ago when I was on a work placement for university I had to do a research project on stair lifts. I had to get people round from various companies and they all measured up whilst they were there, so at least we know one fits!
Would you consider moving from your place (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)?
Mum: Only on my terms. I would like to have family close by, and my own front door and private garden area. Maybe a granny annex. But no to a nursing home on any grounds.
Me: I find this one really hard. I fully support you staying in your home as long as you are safe. And I think that should be your decision to make as long as you can. But I do worry about what would happen if like Nan, you developed Alzheimer’s.
I have everything crossed that you don’t, but if you do, I know there will come a point where you would need 24 hour care. Dad may not be in a position to provide that. But I don’t know that I would either. I have seen the toll that taking care of Alzheimer’s patients has on people, including you. You were trying to take care of Nan, your own kids, and your home, and working. I know you hated Nan being in a home, but I also know that you had no other choice.
I worry that there might come a point where I have no choice but to put you in a home if you are unable to make that choice yourself. Then I have to live with the guilt that I have done something you have always been so against. Any chance we can have a caveat, no home unless I get Alzheimer’s and can no longer take care of myself?
As for the granny annex, you’ve seen the size of my garden Mum! You could live in the kids playhouse!!
How do you feel about having this discussion?
Mum: Fine. It’s a reality of getting older.
Me: I think they are important discussions to have. No matter what your age. I haven’t had the discussion with my kids yet, as they are a bit young. However both my husband and I are in agreement that if either one of us needs care, we will go into a home on the strict provision that the other one must visit us! But we will also do whatever future-proofing we can to our home when it is required. We won’t have the issue of garden maintenance though. Our garden is tiny!
Have you had the discussion with your parents about getting older and future-proofing their home?
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