The Challenge of Aging in Place with Dementia

Eighty-seven percent of U.S. seniors choose to age in place or remain in their own homes rather than relocating to a facility or community specializing in elder care. It is only natural that seniors would prefer to continue enjoying the independence that comes with living in the places where they’ve raised families and accumulated years, or even decades, worth of memories.

Aging in place can be particularly challenging for the estimated five million seniors in the U.S. who are living with dementia. Memory loss creates additional risk as do other symptoms, such as difficulty communicating, mood swings, and trouble with spatial orientation.

To better understand the true risk dementia presents, it may help to address some common misconceptions.

Common dementia myths

  • Dementia is not a disease.
    It is a variety of symptoms brought on by declining cognitive abilities – symptoms that can worsen with age.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not the same.
    Although Alzheimer’s accounts for an estimated 60 percent of dementia diagnoses, the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention says many other health conditions can trigger age-related dementia.
  • Some types of dementia are progressive.
    Symptoms can worsen with age. Other types can be kept in check with medication helping to promote an independent lifestyle.
  • Dementia is not an inevitable part of the aging process.
    According to the World Health Organization, only about 7 percent of world’s 65-and-over population are affected by dementia.

Just because you or a loved one occasionally misplaces a set of keys, it does not necessarily signal the onset of dementia. 

If you are one of the many who are committed to aging in place and even experiencing early signs of dementia, follow these tips to make your home more senior friendly.

Tips for Aging in Place

  • Eliminate clutter throughout your house, keeping pathways clear and reducing the risk of tripping.
  • Keep frequently used items (such as cell phones and remote controls) in easy-to-remember and highly-visible locations.
  • Install “smart” devices that shut down potentially dangerous appliances like stove tops if left unattended.
  • Install grab bars near showers and tubs and handrails near steps and stairwells.
  • Install motorized stair lifts or in-home elevators to make floor-to-floor travel safer.

There will be more than 88 million adults over the age of 65 living in the U.S. by 2050. Those looking forward to aging in place should know a recent National Institute on Aging study, reports incidents of dementia are declining. This is great news for those wishing to remain independent as long as possible. In the meantime, it’s never too early to begin future-proofing your home for safety.