(We welcome a guest post today from Michelle Seitzer of 101Mobility.com.)
Before caregiving, when you shopped for a house, you probably had certain must-have items on your buying check-list, items like granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, shiny wood floors and custom tiling.
After caregiving enters a house, you realize how hard a house, with its multiple levels, tight hallways and awkward bathrooms, can make the experience. Now, your wish list for a house probably includes wide doorways and expanded halls, hand and chair rails, interior and exterior ramps, and a streamlined one-level living quarter.
Maybe you can’t move, but you can look to solutions to help. Whether you renovate an entire floor of your home, build an addition (i.e. the mother-in-law suite) or complete several home modifications in stages, it is possible to age in place (AIP) without moving. Consider these tips for adapting your home – and know that the benefits extend beyond the caree to the family caregiver, too:
1. Simplify, simplify, simplify: Decluttering, streamlining, and organizing the home is one of the easiest (and most affordable) ways to make it AIP-friendly. Those boxes of old magazines, that dining room table piled with paperwork, the hall closet that’s inaccessible because it’s bursting with rarely-used clothes and holiday decorations – we all have them. But overstuffed shelves, drawers and cabinets are not only unattractive, they’re a fall risk, a hazard, an obstacle to efficiency. It doesn’t have to be spring to do some much need cleaning and consolidating. And if your caree requires a transition to a care facility, the work of downsizing from a multi-bedroom home to a single room or apartment will be easier.
2. Ramp it up: Installing ramps at the home’s most-used exits and entrances enhances independence and prevents home “imprisonment”. Additionally, stair lifts allow access to a second floor bathroom or bedroom. These aids also ease the physical burden and stress on a family caregiver’s body if the caree requires mobility assistance within the home.
3. Let there be light: Lighting can make a significant difference when it comes to preventing falls and easing mobility in the home. Certain lighting fixtures (floor lamps, for example) can be dangerous if they have long wires exposed and in the walking (tripping) path. Installing additional lights (or windows to let in more natural light) in high-traffic areas and frequently-used rooms makes the home safer – and more attractive.
4. Watch where you step: You walk all over it every day but probably don’t give it much thought until your balance or gait is compromised. Flooring in all rooms of the house can easily present a fall risk as can rugs that are bulky, shift around easily, or have corners that catch on walkers, canes or wheelchairs. Hard flooring provides optimal mobility.
5. Keep things dry in the water closet: In the bathroom, where the majority of fall-related injuries occur, implement non-skid surfaces. Make sure all surfaces (counters, tubs/shower floors, etc.) stay dry.
6. Lend a hand: Chair rails in hallways, grab bars in the bathroom, and other touch points for safe and supported maneuvering can dramatically reduce the risk of falls and promote independence within the home.
An added bonus? After home modifications have been made to accommodate an aging resident, these features, if done well, can certainly be a selling point for future homebuyers (i.e. those young adults who are already thinking about taking care of Mom, Grandpa, or another senior relative). Invest wisely; prepare your home now.
(You can find more information on AIP adaptations at 101Mobility.com.)
Michelle Seitzer is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in elder care content. Seitzer writes for a number of senior-related websites, including 101 Mobility.com, the nation’s leading sales, service and installation provider of a complete line of mobility and accessibility products and equipment that may be customized to suit each individuals’ home care needs. Learn more about the company at http://101mobility.com/ or email Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org).