Modifications to Consider Based on Your Loved Ones Needs By Paul Denikin
April 18, 2017
April 18, 2017
Photo By: Pixabay
As your loved ones age, remaining in their home may be their desire, but there are certain modifications that will need to be made to ensure their home is safe, accessible, and meets their changing needs.
Evaluate the Home and Surroundings
An environment that doesn’t meet the changing needs of your aging loved one can prevent successful aging in place, but modifications can make it easier for your loved one to navigate through and live in their home. Modifications can range in size and cost, from a few dollars for a brighter light bulb to thousands for installing a stair lift or walk-in shower. To start the process of adapting a home to age in place, evaluate the home for potential necessary modifications. Cover all the bases by looking at stairs, light, doors and doorways, hallways, flooring, bathrooms, kitchens, and the home exterior.
After evaluating the home, take a look at the surrounding area to make sure your loved one is in an area with access to essentials such as healthcare, hospitals, transportation, shopping, entertainment, and senior agencies. Don’t forget about the safety of the area, too. Local police and neighbors will be able to provide insight into the crime rate and degree of safety in the area, as well as what measures, if any, are being taken to increase safety.
Target Specific Needs
One of the biggest challenges in modifying a home is identifying safety issues or concerns that are unique to your loved one based on their age or condition. To simplify the process, look for modifications that will solve a particular need or issue and then identify a solution, such as:
- Balance/Coordination Problems – rounded counter edges; grab bars in the bathroom; stairway handrails on both sides; handrails that extend beyond the top and bottom of the stairs; elimination of stairs to bathroom and bedroom, if possible
- Poor/Limited Vision – increase wattage of light bulbs; lights in all closets; well-lit stairs; stove controls (clearly marked, easy to see, big numbers, uses different colors to tell which parts are hot); outside walkways and entrances well-lit
- Hearing Impairment – increased volume on phones; smoke detectors and alarm systems with strobe lights; quiet dishwasher to reduce background noise
- Wheelchair/Motorized Scooter – floors are slip-resistant; knee space under sinks and stove; no rugs; ramp to front door with hand rails on both sides; wide doorways and hallways; roll-in shower; threshold on door is ¼ inch or less
Keep in mind that some modifications can be made yourself, while others will require the help of a contractor or professional. Consider leaving work that requires plumbing or electrical work to a pro, and handle small DIY projects yourself such as installing grab bars or placing non-slip tape in showers and bathtubs. Additionally, if your loved one ever relocates to a new home, consider calling in professional movers; they’ll ensure that any modification items you’re moving (like portable ramps or removable light fixtures) will arrive in one piece. Be sure to research movers before you decide on any particular company.
Remember the Exterior
The exterior of your loved one’s home can pose a safety hazard and make aging in place difficult, so don’t forget to asses the outside too. Steps and sidewalks can cause a falling hazard, so reduce the risk by removing steps or adding a low-step entry to make the transition easier going from outside to inside. Depending on the ground elevation, alternative doors may have to be considered to avoid steps. If steps are necessary, make sure they are textured and have hand railings. As for the sidewalk, make sure it is wide and free of tripping hazards such as overgrown shrubs or bushes.
Just like adequate lighting is important inside the home, it is important outside, too. Install lighting to illuminate walkways. Make sure there is a light by the entrance door, with preference to those that come on automatically.
As your loved ones ages, don’t forget about the challenges associated with outdoor maintenance. Low maintenance landscaping is key, as it reduces the amount of time required by your loved one and reduces the expense should they hire professional help. Suggestions for low maintenance options are shrubs and plants that don’t require watering, or synthetic grass to save the trouble of maintaining a lawn.
Modifying your loved one’s home to meet their needs is a process, and as their needs change, you may have to find other ways to help them adapt. Bring in a professional if necessary, and keep the lines of communication open with your loved one to ensure their home remains a happy and comfortable place to live.