The danger of aging in place

If there’s one thing many Baby Boomers have in common, it’s this: Trying to convince an elderly parent that it’s time to leave the home they’ve spent their life in, and move somewhere that’s not so dangerous for an elderly person.

For many, especially those who’ve already reluctantly given up the car keys at a son’s or daughter’s insistence, it’s the last piece of independence — and dignity, really.

Is it worth forcing the move, capping a lifetime with a few years of unhappiness? Or does a son/daughter just shrug and say, “whatever makes you happy at whatever the cost?”

Michelle Singletary, of the Washington Post, chose the latter decision.

Then a fire broke out in her mother’s home. Her mom suffered second- and third-degree burns, held on for two painful months, and finally died on Memorial Day.

There are times when the guilt becomes so heavy. Should we have pushed even harder? What could I have done differently to get her to recognize that she needed more help and could no longer live on her own?

But my mother was strong willed, competent and in her right mind, so we couldn’t force her to relocate. And honestly, since she and I hadn’t been very close, I was afraid of losing her again if I pushed too hard. It was her mother, Big Mama, who had raised me. But over the last few years, my mother and I had reconnected. She was a different person to me after the strokes. Gentler. Repentant. We were in a good place. I wanted her to let me help her. I wanted her closer.

Like many seniors, my mother stubbornly clung to her independence even though it put her in harm’s way. Nearly 90 percent of people over 65 want to stay in their home as long as possible, according to AARP.

Ideally, it is better and can be more cost-effective for people to age in place as long as they are physically able. Yet there may come a time when they can’t stay.

As a caregiver, it’s scary when you get calls about falls, or a pot left burning on the stove, or a home that was once pristine but now is grimy and dirty.

Even when there’s money to hire an aide, some people’s parents stubbornly refuse assistance, she writes while offering the advice not to stop nagging mom and dad to give up the house.