So what exactly are Age-Friendly Homes for later life?
Tip 1: Age-friendly homes are ones that meet your needs at all stages of life, but particularly in later life.
But here is the problem – only about 8% of UK homes have the 4 main features that make a home accessible.
WC on the entry level
Wide enough doors (These are door with a space of 75cm or more pass through them)
Wide enough corridors (at least 90cm of space, or more if you have to turn a sharp corner)
Which of these features does your own home have? Or perhaps you are thinking about a loved one’s home?
These features are the key to unlocking the accessibility of your home if you need some kind of walking aid, a wheelchair or are unable to comfortably climb the stairs to get regular access to a toilet. But not everyone needs these features immediately….
The good news is that even if your home doesn’t have these key features, there are still so many things that you can do to make your home more age-friendly, and we will cover these in our Age-friendly series.
Are you part of the Sandwich Generation? And no, it is not ‘Ladies who Lunch’! Do you have caring responsibilities for your children AND your parents (or an older friend or family member)? If so, you are part of the Sandwich Generation – and you are likely to be ‘Time Poor’ – especially if you work or volunteer as well.
So what can you do to ease the burden? Firstly, try to identify the risks and barriers to ageing well in your loved one’s own home. What features in the home are hazardous or problematic? And then, once you know what sort of risks might be inherent to the home, make a plan to make small changes to improve the environment. Read our ‘Small Changes‘ blog series to find out more.
This is the first in our Sandwich Generation blog posts. There are more posts to follow on how to make effective use of the time you have with your parents (or older relatives) if you are worried about their safety or independence at home. https://livingwellathome.co.uk/blog/
Kaye of Loose Women fame, tells her own story of the pressure of being part of the Sandwich generation in this video:
Remember, always try to make any changes to a home with the consent and involvement of the household themselves. How would you like it if someone came into your property and started moving things around? We believe that change is made best, when made with consent.
There is no doubt that publicly funded health and social care is in a pickle. Moreover, the population is ageing and there’s a shortfall in the human capital needed to deliver good quality care. Something has to change. And the good news is that there is a solution – it is called ‘Prevention’ and society is starting to take notice.
[See below for details of a new Return on Investment tool for investing in Older People, by Public Health England]
Of course, our HomeCheck services are a vital part of the solution. Through small changes we keep people living well and independently at home. Our mantra ‘Small Changes for a Big Difference’ has never been truer…… Take a look at our video introduction to find out why.
Quantifying the benefits
Public Health England has recently published a new report and ‘Return on Investment’ tool. As a result, Local Authorities, Integrated Care Systems / Integrated Care Partnerships and local AHSN’s can now make more sense of the return on investment on preventative measures (Like the HomeCheck services).
This is music to our ears, because we know first-hand what a difference a small investment in prevention work can make. Not just to the long-term prognosis and quality of life for many older, vulnerable and disabled people – but also for our stretched public services.
It makes societal, personal and financial sense to future proof our homes and our lives. Public Health England Reports:
Investment in Reablement (helping people live more independently) can deliver a huge £4.71 equivalent Social ROI for every £1 invested.
Modest Home Modifications brought about a significant reduction in the incidence of falls at home for older people – the equivalent to a £3.17 saving to the NHS and Social Care for every £1 invested and a whopping Social ROI of £7.34 for every £1 invested
It is always good to get your Continuing Professional Development underway early in the year – and there are plenty of courses and conferences to choose from this Spring.
Why don’t you start by signing up to our Newsletter that is full of tips, tricks and sector know-how:
For Occupational Therapists
Do you know about OTAC? It is the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference series that covers the country. With 9 events already arranged there is bound to be one near you. And with great speakers and free tickets you have everything to gain! Click here to find out about dates and venues
For Architects and Designers
RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) CPD series has now launched. To find out more about RIBA’s extensive programme of education and professional development programme that covers the length and breadth of England, including online courses (there is even one by us coming in the Spring!) click here
Or if you want to develop your Inclusive Design skills online, head over to the Design Council’s free (yes, £0) Inclusive Design training module here
Do you cater for the specific needs and aspirations of people in Later Life? Or would you like to? SOLLA (The Society of Later Life Advisers) offers a range of courses and professional qualifications to help you deliver the best advice you can to suit older people.
And don’t forget, we regularly run our HomeCheck training courses if you want to add HomeCheck assessments to your portfolio of skills.
We can also tailor the training to suit specific sectors such as Home Care providers, Social Services OTs and Home Improvement Agencies. Let us know how we can help you make best use of your resources.
Are you running a course? Would you like us to feature it in our regular newletter? If so, email us on email@example.com
Use your time together this winter to find out what they are thinking and feeling. Your relative may be keen to reassure you that they are fine and don’t need any support or help, even if you think they do. There are many reasons why this happens, including:
They may not want to worry you or to be a burden.
Ageing is an organic process. Your relative may not realise that they are accommodating some of their own (or their home’s) limitations.
Genuinely though, they may be fine – it might be you that is worrying!
The Press certainly doesn’t help, with its often negative stereotyping of age and dependency in old age. And so, your relative may be genuinely frightened of losing their independence. Moreover, they may feel they are losing recognition for who they are and what they have achieved in their lives.
A wise, green-fingered 90-year-old friend of mine has a saying that rings true for most circumstances:
‘You can’t move a plant before it is ready. If you do, it won’t thrive ….. it is just the same for people’
Your loved-one is an individual with choices
Asking open questions and listening to your relatives hopes, plans and aspirations for the future is a great starting point.
You may think that your relative would benefit from a little extra help around the house or other forms of support. But remember, it is better to discuss this with them and allow them to make the decision to themselves.
Sadly we have seen so many older people being spoken to as if they are a child, or don’t have a valid opinion of their own. It rarely works well when people try to force ‘solutions’ onto an individual that is living independently.
A little posititivity goes a long way….
If you have ‘heard the stories a thousand times already‘, that may be because they cherish that part of their life. Try asking them more questions about the story, you might be surprised about what else you learn!
By focusing on the positive side of your loved-one’s life, you are showing them that you recognise them as an individual and not as a ‘problem to fix’.
This is the same when it comes to the here and now. Focus your conversations on what your relative can do and what they enjoy rather than asking or telling them what they can’t do.
Engage your loved one in positive conversations about their lives. Ask open questions that allows them to tell you what they love to do, and perhaps what they would like to do in the future. They may even tell you what they can’t do anymore.
If they do open up to you, resist the temptation to dive in with a solution that you think is best. Work with your relative to explore the options available.
If you aren’t sure what to do next, call your relative’s GP or their Local Council’s Adult Social Services team. Everyone has a right to ask for a Social Care Needs Assessment.
Tip 1: If you are concerned about your relative, talk to them and find out what they are thinking and feeling. That is to say, you can’t help them if you don’t understand what it is that they want or need. And they may not want a Residential Care Home, only 7% of people favour this option! Reading our Tip 1 Blog is a good starting point for this….
Tip 2: Are you worried about their memory? Or their physical condition or their mental state? There is no single test to assess risk, however, there are some simple checks you can do yourself. Read our Tip 2 Blog, where we also identify organisations that may be able to help you too.
Tip 3: You can help your loved one to cope better in their own home with some simple changes to it. For instance, improving the security and lighting. Or perhaps you can spot and removing any trip hazards or fall risks. That way you can help them to retain their independence. There are many more things you can do to future-proof a home. Read here to find out more…..
Tip 4: Plan for the future…. and, no matter how hard it is, talk about death. We know this can be a hard thing to do. In Tip 4’s blog, we look at some options on how to discuss your loved one’s preferences and plans without causing upset or distress.
Think about your vision for your retirement. Have you actively considered the role your home will play in making that vision a reality? Many people forget to consider this – it’s often the neglected piece of the retirement jigsaw.
When you’ve lived in a property for years, it’s hard to pick up on little things that become barriers and risks to living independently as you get older. After all, what you want (and need) from your home evolves over time.
One of our Insured, DBS-checked Assessors will review your home and garden and prepare a comprehensive report with personalised suggestions on how to reduce fall risks, improve safety and maximise accessibility – while complementing your taste in design and often adding value to your property. The report comes complete with pictures and useful links, so it’s easy to browse and choose what’s right for you.
Our property adaptation advice services – unique in the UK – give you fast, practical and tailored advice, so you can plan your future life at home with more confidence.
‘An Englishman’s Home is his Castle’ – castle, house, bungalow or narrow boat – it doesn’t matter what shape it is, just so long as we can call it home.
Our home is part of our identity, we choose it (for the most part), furnish it, decorate it and choose who we let into it. We know our neighbourhood and all the good places to go nearby. Home is the place that we love and know the best. So why should we have to leave all behind that when we get older?
Throughout our lives our needs and aspirations change – and we just expect our home to flex and adapt with us. Sometimes we outgrow its four walls and sometimes it outgrows us. But what we don’t expect is for our home to stop us living the way we want to – but that is what can happen as we get older – Steps become a challenge, the bath edge is a bit too high and the floor a bit too slippery, the garden seems a lot bigger than it did 20 years ago and reaching the top of the kitchen cabinet is a little bit more precarious. It is not our fault or something we did, its the natural process of ageing – and it is the home that is no longer supporting us.
Luckily with some small adjustments, and occasionally some larger adaptations you can unlock the potential of your home to let you live independently, comfortably and safely in the home you love for much longer.
Living Well at Home Ltd is here to help and please enjoy the pages of this blog and our website http://www.livingwellathome.co.uk and look forward to your independent future.