BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - About 10,000 Americans turned 65 today, according to the Pew Research Center. As the population ages, the need for senior care increases. Deciding where to house aging family members is often an emotional and difficult task.
Forty five percent of all homeowners will be over 55 by the year 2020, and more seniors are choosing to age in their own homes as opposed to a nursing facility or independent living center. It's a trend that could save money…and dignity.
"We got married in July 1984, married 30 years. In fact, there's our wedding picture," Pat Swindler said pointing to a picture of his wife Sharon.
Swindler always wanted the best for Sharon. When back surgery and deep vein thrombosis confined her to a wheelchair, the Swindlers did not want to be anywhere but home.
"Her condition started worsening," Swindler recalled. "I'd have had to put here in a nursing home or extended care facility, which is very expensive. Ya know, I'm not a rich man."
Swindler turned to the internet to research a movement called 'aging in place.' He found Kathy Simoneaux with Acadian House Kitchen & Bath in Baton Rouge. Simoneaux is a certified aging in place remodeler.
"Sharon's wheelchair really did not fit into the master bathroom, so in looking at the hall there was a problem of course with the doorways only 24 inches wide," Simoneaux explained on a tour of the Swindler's home.
"So we increased that to 36 inches, did a double door, and the door swings both ways, so Pat could have her in there and get the doors out of the way and into the hallway."
Simoneaux, like other certified aging in place remodelers, is specially trained to design every feature with a purpose.
"When you're aging in your home, you want the spaces to be comfortable, usable and accessible," she said. The renovations could be more cost-effective than long-term care facilities.
"Yes, it may be more expensive up front, but divide that by the number of years you hope to stay in the home, 15 to 20 years. That's a whole lot less than paying $40-, $50-, $60,000 a year to stay in a nursing or assisted facility," Simoneaux added.
The Swindlers' floors look like wood, but they're actually porcelain tile. Simoneaux said that was chosen for longevity and because it's easier on a wheelchair. The once compartmentalized master bath
was transformed to an accessible space with a spa-like feel. Walls were knocked down, the commode moved across from the new slide-in bathtub, stylish grab bars were installed, and the vanity was lowered.
"[I would] wheel her right up there and let her comb her hair and brush her teeth and all that, and she was really happy to be able to do that," Swindler said. "Because before I'd have to sit her at the kitchen table with a little bitty small mirror and let her brush her teeth there, because she couldn't get to the bathroom."
Sadly, Sharon only got to enjoy her new bathroom for a short time. A pulmonary embolism proved fatal in April.
Pat takes comfort in knowing his wife's final days were spent at home, and he encourages others to consider 'aging in place' before committing to a facility.