Virginia, an 85-year-old who lives in a Victorian home, loves Christmas. She adores decorating, baking and hosting holiday get-togethers. But as she ages, she is finding it more and more difficult to assemble and decorate the massive Christmas tree that usually greets holiday guests from her front room.
For most people evaluating this situation, Virginia has two options:
- She could get a smaller Christmas tree
- She could stop putting up her usual tree and go without one during the holidays
But there’s a third option. Virginia doesn’t have to replace her majestic tree with a smaller version or give up the tradition she loves. She can get assistance putting up her Christmas tree through supportive services, an often-overlooked option for older adults who wish to remain in their homes as they age.
Supportive services for older adults encompass a variety of assistance, and are not just for times of illness or crisis. For example, you could use supportive services to help you get ready for a trip, prepare for a family dinner, or decorate for the holidays, like Virginia. If you’re considering supportive services for yourself or a loved one, keep the following points in mind.
1. Supportive services take many forms. Depending on your level of need and location, supportive services can run the gamut from adult day care centers, to in-home skilled nursing services, to light housekeeping work, which Virginia could use. Services are broken out into the following categories:
- Personal Care: Can include non-skilled assistance with things like bathing, dressing, eating, getting in and out of bed.
- Home Health Services: Can range from skilled nursing care to occupation, physical or respiratory therapy to assistance with housekeeping, preparing for a trip or a family dinner, or various chores.
- Nutrition Services: Can include daily meals delivered to one’s home.
- Transportation: Can provide services for older adults who are unable to drive or lack private transportation
2. Many older adults receive supportive services from family. More than 5 million older adults needed some kind of support to remain in their homes as they aged, according to AARP. Most of this support came from family members, while others took advantage of public programs, paid out-of-pocket or used private insurance to get the services they needed.
3. There are many places to find supportive services. Your local Area Agency on Aging, local senior center, a private provider, or your physician’s office are all places where you can get more information or enroll in supportive services.
The Administration on Aging reports that 15 percent of adults over age 65 have difficulty with some aspect of independent living, 9 percent of adults over 65 have difficulties with self-care and 23 percent of older adults above the age of 65 have difficulty getting around. Despite these statistics, it’s important to remember that these older adults (and Virginia) don’t have to give up what they enjoy or leave their homes just because they’re in need of assistance. It’s also important to keep in mind that supportive services are a valuable tool even if someone is not ill or injured. Supportive services can provide the assistance an older adult needs to remain safely at home at a fraction of the cost of an assisted living facility or nursing home.