Although there is a time and circumstance to be admitted into institutionalized care, entering these institutions prematurely can cause devastating outcomes. Downsizing, Transition, and Relocation become more difficult in later years of life. Much of an individual’s quality of life and wellbeing is attached to two things:

1. Home (physical extrinsic environment) which offers a familiar physical structure, comfort zone, routine, habits, memories, pride, and independence.

2.  Control  (personal intrinsic environment) which provides power over what happens to him or her throughout the aging process. At any age, a large aspect of quality of life is the dignity and power that comes with the ability to choose. 

Regardless of best intentions, familial pressure to downsize and move to an assisted living/nursing home with no other recourse/option has potential to negatively affect one’s view of themselves and their abilities, damage his/her pride and dignity and result in detrimental effects on the human psyche. Decreasing an individuals life space prematurely due to a change in ability often times compound the deficits and cause a further decrease in ability. The psychosocial implications of transitioning an individual to an institution before he/she is truly ready may lead to lethargy, decreased desire for social participation, depression,  and increased dependency for activities of daily living. The average length of stay in senior apartments is 77 months, assisted living facilities is 21 months (34% move on to a nursing home), and 50-60% of individuals entering a nursing home pass away within the first year. Looking for an alternative to institutionalization is of paramount importance when deciding next steps for care. 

The “Let Them Age” initiative and movement promoted through Aging with Purpose offers hope, resources, rehabilitation, habilitation, and training for older adults and caregivers wishing to remain in their own homes within the community instead of moving into an assisted living facility (ALF) or nursing home. There are many businesses existing today implying a transition to a  higher quality of care (ALF/nursing home) or spending $25-$30/hour out of pocket for home assistance are the only options for you. In truth, addressing the deficits and obstacles prompting the question of institutionalized care is first and most financially feasible option. Occupational therapists are productive aging specialists and can address many aspects of living independently. By maximizing remaining skills and capabilities, an occupational therapist teaches an individual to live…differently. By changing one’s perception– what was once a loss of ability is now an opportunity to re-learn life essentials such as community mobility, home mobility, cooking, shopping, dressing, medication management, etc. An occupational therapist uses concepts grounded in mental health, psycho-social framework, physical rehabilitation, habilitation, and more to equip every elderly individual seeking to remain in their own homes independently with the right tools, resources, and support.

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