Aging in Place - How Neighbors Can Help

Joyce is renting an apartment in a lovely pre-war co-op building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The apartment is a small one bedroom which until recently Joyce kept in excellent shape. In 2008, the magazines, charitable requests, and junk mail began piling up on tabletops, and the floor and the bills were lost in the midst. There was little food in her refrigerator; she frequently forgot to take her medicine; and her friends in the building were concerned that she might trip on her rugs or forget to turn off the stove.  Even the doormen were involved, making sure that Joyce didn’t go outside in inclement weather without a coat, hat, scarf and gloves.

Joyce’s neighbor connected her out-of-town sister (who was just beginning to realize that memory loss was substantial) with Eddy & Schein. As a first step, we researched Home Health Agencies and found one that would pre-pour Joyce’s medications and then call her each morning and evening to remind her to take the pills. We then worked with Joyce to sort through piles and in the process eliminated many trip hazards. We helped her clear out files, pay  bills, gather documents to go to the accountant for 2008 taxes, and deal with the bank to remove unnecessary fees.

If it had not been for the neighbors and doormen, this sweet, independent 80-year old woman who still sings with a church choir and loves to walk all over New York, might soon have been relegated to a nursing home.

Aging in Place
Joyce is only one example of the phenomenon called Aging in Place. The number of seniors living in co-ops, condos, rentals, and private homes is growing. There are buildings where larger percentages of residents are retired seniors. Those buildings are referred to as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC).  In New York State, not-for-profit agencies have applied to the State to be able to certify a building as a NORC and receive funding to serve the residents.  In other buildings, the managements are struggling with this increasing problem: how to deal with the large number of seniors living alone who are, themselves, dealing with the challenges of aging.

Building management and owners may be aware of and concerned by:

  • Lack of cleanliness
  • Wandering residents
  • Fear of fires due to unattended stoves
  • Fear of leaks due to lack of maintenance of plumbing

While many residents are self-sufficient, at some point they begin to need help due to:

  • Slow deterioration of eyesight, muscle function, memory, or brain function
  • A sudden illness or accident, stroke, heart attack or fall which can change the situation in an instant

In most cases they can continue to live in their apartment, but they might need:

  • Help with paperwork and bills
  • Help with shopping, cleaning and cooking
  • Companionship and encouragement to keep up routines
  • Help with activities of daily living

What You Can Do To Help
Do you have a neighbor who may be declining? Are you on the Board of your co-op building?  Do you worry about the long-term residents who are now seniors?  Do you wonder what can be done to make life better for the seniors and to ease the concern by neighbors, owners and management?  How can you help your building management prepare for the resident seniors’ diminishing physical or mental capacity or a sudden fall or illness?

We believe there are ways that boards of directors and management companies can be more proactive in working with their growing senior populations.   Ideally, there would be training for the boards of directors, management companies’ staffs, and the superintendents of buildings and their staffs, presented by a panel of in-home support staff such as:

  • A financial organizer
  • A geriatric care manager
  • A representative of a home health aide or companion agency
  • A professional organizer specializing in seniors and hoarding

The training would address the following issues:

  • How to recognize oncoming problems
  • How to assist seniors
  • Hoarders and chronically disorganized people
  • Accessibility
  • In addition, building management would sponsor seminars for resident seniors and their families, and aging Baby Boomers, which would address the joys of aging in place and how to avoid the pitfalls.

Preparation is the key:

  • Preparation by people aging in place. 
  • Preparation by family members. 
  • Preparation by friends and neighbors. 
  • Preparation by building management and boards

Call us to set up a seminar for seniors, training session for your staff, or a consultation for your neighbor/resident.

September 2009 - FEATURE
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