Aging in place

Jennifer McLeod

How to best support our aging loved ones is something that is on all of our minds at some point. None of us are getting any younger. Eventually, the impacts of aging begin to affect quality of life and our senior loved ones need a little help.

Aging in Place

Aging in Place is a hot topic for families and seniors. Especially since Covid-19. Seniors have worked HARD for their independence and home is their safe place. HOME is where they want to stay, for as long as possible.

However, adult children worry that while home is cozy and familiar, it may become unsafe for their parents to live independently as they age and their needs change.

Installing cameras is out of the question for most - it’s a complete invasion of privacy. Even if cameras ARE needed, there are many areas where cameras simply cannot go. So how do we get some insight into what’s needed and what’s most helpful?

Assessing ability and knowing how to help

A functional assessment with an Occupational Therapist (OT) is a great place to start. Don’t just think “job” when you hear “occupational” - OTs work with EVERYONE, assessing the functionality of a space AND the functional ability of an individual. It’s about understanding functional needs so they can support their clients in living their best LIFE; whether that’s in the workforce or as a retired person.

The problem is that functional assessments are mostly subjective. The client self-reports on their ability to perform acts of daily living. OTs do take this one step further and ask them to SHOW them how they can do the task and that’s why they can be an invaluable part of a care team - but, what happens when they leave?

Are their clients actually performing these tasks regularly? Or was it a strong one-off effort?

Adding objective measures with data

A non-intrusive monitoring system adds a layer of OBJECTIVE data to a functional assessment. Simply assign sensors to objects that are necessary for daily living. Immediately you begin to see real-time activity and soon you start to see patterns.

Maybe Mom is showering, but not often enough. Perhaps bathroom trips are more frequent than expected and it’s an early sign of an underlying health issue. Maybe medication is being taken, but not consistently on schedule.

It’s about getting a TRUE picture of functional ability so we can intervene and coach behaviour where it matters most. The best approach is one that balances the observations of trusted family, friends, and professionals with objective activity readings for the most informed support plan.

Adapting as needs change

One thing is for certain - in senior care, needs change as time goes on. A monitoring system that doesn’t watch or listen blends into the background of everyday living and provides valuable insight to caregivers. Beyond the assessment period, the care circle remains informed on how behaviours are changing, helping to identify the areas where additional care and support can have the greatest impact.