Optimizing Your Home for an Elderly Occupant
March 16, 2013
As we get older, our mobility often deteriorates, making tasks which were once simple considerably more difficult. This can sometimes make it incredibly challenging, if not impossible, for certain seniors to live alone. Frequently in such situations, the elderly are placed into nursing homes where they can be constantly monitored and cared for. However, some seniors don’t acclimate well to their new surroundings, missing the feeling of living at home and feeling isolated and limited in their options. For this reason, the children and/or friendly of certain mobility-impaired elderly individuals sometimes take it upon themselves to let the former occupy their homes, sharing their living space with them. However, sometimes these elderly guests aren’t moving in permanently, but are simply stopping by for a visit. Regardless, if you’re going to invite an elderly person with mobility issues into your space certain modifications will need to be made to allow them to security traverse your home. Below are a few suggestions for those with elderly visitors to keep in mind.
- Buy temporary ramps, allowing wheelchair-bound seniors easy access to the various rooms of your home without having to worry about dangerous step-ups or high thresholds.
- Install a transfer bench/chair. For those who are not able to buy a handicap accessible walk-in tub, transfer benches are a great purchase. They are basically a seat which can be installed in your shower, allowing disabled users to operate it much more freely.
- Use non-slip coverings in strategic places. You should certainly place a non-slip pad in your shower or tub, as well as outside it. Placing them in tiled rooms is always a good idea, as tile can be very slippery when wet. Also, though pads aren’t the best idea, placing a non-slip coating on any and all ramps you might have put up is always a wise idea.
- Remove rugs and carpeting. If your carpeting is attached to the floor you’ll be rest assured to know that it can stay where it is. However, you should take the time to pick up any and all rugs and/or loose carpets. Wheelchairs can easily get stuck on their corners, leading to potentially problematic passage.
- Improve your home’s lighting. As we age our eyesight often becomes less sharp. If your home isn’t ideally lit, be sure to buy some extra lamps and other similar appliances if necessary. Remember that any dimly lit area is potentially dangerous to a senior, particularly one with impaired mobility.
- Regulate your water heater. Be sure to set your water heater’s thermostat to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidental scalding.
- Install rails and/or grab bars. Grab bars are an absolutely mandatory addition to handicap-accessible bathrooms. Place one on either side of the toilet so that the person in question can raise and lower themselves with ease and at least one inside the shower to assist in for entry and exit. However, though these are the only necessary spots, it can’t hurt to install grab bars in other areas as well. No matter where you place them, bars and rails are always a great benefit to any room.
- Widen doorways. Most wheelchairs and walkers have trouble fitting through standard doorways. You’ll want to widen yours to at least 32 inches in diameter for easier access.
- Lower sinks and countertops. For those in a wheelchair, many of the things in a typical house will simply be too high to use comfortably. Lowering sinks and countertops by just a few inches can make a tremendous amount of difference.
- Replace your fixtures with easier-to-use models. Any and all knobs, be it the ones on the sink, the ones on your doors or the ones in your shower, should be replaced by easier to use controls. One good option is the lever, which can be far easier to operate than a typical knob. As far as sinks are concerned, you might want to consider purchasing an automatic model. You could even consider automatic or button-operated doors.
- Get a walk-in tub. You can install all of the grab bars, vacuum-sealed doors and shower seats you want, and every one will help a bit, but there’s no replacement for simply purchasing a walk-in tub. For those with impaired mobility, one of these devices can simplify the act of taking a bath tremendously. With low step-ins, easy to use controls, a regulated temperature and doors which are easy to use but seal tightly, walk-in tubs are fantastic tools. Some of them even come with built in therapies like massaging water jets.
The ideas listed here are really just scratching the surface of the many ways you can prepare your home for an elderly visitor. There are literally thousands of modifications which can be made to ensure easier access and safer passage. Basically, you should do what you can. Some of these alterations are more expensive than others, and some take far more time and work to install, but all are important, and all should be considered. Impaired mobility doesn’t have to hold you or anyone else back.