Age-proof your house for years to come

Ce­line Naughton

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - AGEING WELL -

HOME is where the heart is for most older peo­ple, but if you want to live in your own cher­ished place for as long as pos­si­ble, you need to plan ahead — be­fore your chil­dren’s quip to, ‘watch out, we’ll be pick­ing your nurs­ing home’ be­comes a re­al­ity.

With De­part­ment of Health fig­ures pre­dict­ing that one in four Ir­ish peo­ple will be over the age of 65 within 20 years, it’s some­thing more and more of us will have to think about as we ap­proach the tra­di­tional re­tire­ment age.

In the case of yours truly, that’s just seven years away, although like many of my vin­tage, I con­sider my­self far from old. Like it or not, many of us will con­tinue work­ing long past 65. Most of us have bucket lists of things we want to do, we look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing life­long re­la­tion­ships with our fam­i­lies and friends, and an­tic­i­pate decades yet of rich, ful­fill­ing lives. We’ve got plenty to give, and it’s anath­ema to think of spend­ing these years liv­ing any­where but in our own homes, sur­rounded by a life­time of trea­sured mem­o­ries.

My late mother-in-law did pre­cisely that, liv­ing in­de­pen­dently at home un­til she was 93. In her fi­nal few years she ben­e­fited from a home help and care pack­age that brought peo­ple into her home to help her with wash­ing, dress­ing and house­hold chores, and some­times just to sit and chat with over a cup of tea.

How­ever, those sup­ports didn’t hap­pen overnight. It took time and steely de­ter­mi­na­tion by fam­ily mem­bers work­ing with those angels of our com­mu­nity — public health nurses — to get the care hours she needed.

“There aren’t nearly enough funds or staff to meet de­mand,” says Audry Deane, Health Pol­icy Of­fi­cer with Age Ac­tion. “Con­se­quently, many older peo­ple who would rather stay in their own en­vi­ron­ment end up in nurs­ing homes. The only way to rem­edy this is through Sláinte Care, the 10-year plan launched last year by the Oireach­tas Com­mit­tee on the Fu­ture of Health­care.

“For older peo­ple it sets out an in­te­grated sys­tem with ac­cess to health­care closer to home. It moves away from our cur­rent hos­pi­tal-cen­tric ap­proach and co-or­di­nates health and so­cial care to meet the needs of older peo­ple. We’re al­ready a year be­hind in its im­ple­men­ta­tion, but we can’t con­tinue liv­ing with a hy­brid mix of health­care that’s in­ef­fi­cient, ex­pen­sive and re­sults in poor out­comes. There is no Plan B.”

How­ever, while we wait for the

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