While assisted living is wonderful, it’s not always an option. Your elder may need to remain independent at home or semi-independent while living with family.
When my mother moved in with me, some changes needed to be made to the house. Some of the changes were immediate and some as we saw a need. They ranged from low pile Berber carpet to reduce risks of falls to railings on both sides of stairs. Grab bars were installed in the bathroom, and the kitchen and bath arranged so she could reach items easily and safely.
Making a home elder-friendly includes thinking about what your elder needs now and likely will need in the future. This post includes 30 top tips for you to consider now or in future planning.
Is Your Kitchen Elder-Friendly?
1. Telecare detectors not only sound an alarm, they also contact a monitoring center. Can include smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Professional installation can determine best placement to minimize false alarms without compromising safety.
2. Store commonly used items on easy to reach shelves and drawers.
3. Static shelves may need replaced with rollout shelves for easy access.
4. Special tools can help keep your elder independent. Tools include assistive openers for bottles, jars and cans to easy grip often wide-handled tools and silverware. Cups with 2 handles, non-slip placemats and brightly colored dishes can all be helpful.
5. Levers on faucets instead of knobs are easier to use because they need less strength and dexterity to use.
6. Consider a stool for sitting while working in the kitchen instead of standing.
7. Bright colors that contrast can help elders identify items.
8. A cart or trolley can help move items from one room to another, such as food and drinks from kitchen to dining room.
9. Other ideas include non-slip flooring. Elder skin is more fragile than younger skin, and baby bumpers around sharp edges of counters and low cabinets can prevent injuries.
Living and Other Rooms Need Attention Too
10. Arrange furniture so there’s plenty of room to move around. Avoid clutter of newspapers, magazines and knick-knacks on floors.
11. Electrical cords should be secure and not in the path of walking. You may need to secure them to a wall.
12. Large screen phones and phones with large buttons are often easier for elders to use.
13. Rugs should be removed or secured with double-faced tape to prevent slipping and falls.
14. Consider an entry phone or intercom to alert your elder that someone is at the door.
15. Lighting should be bright enough; elders need more light to see adequately than younger adults.
Making Bedrooms Elder-Friendly
16. A bedside lamp placed so the switch can be easily reached prevents accidents in the dark.
17. A flashlight or battery powered lamp near the bed gives a light source in case of power failure.
18. Adding a bedrail can help sitting up in bed while also preventing falls out of bed.
19. Low pile carpet can add a cushion in case of a fall. Avoid shag or high pile carpets both of which can lead to tripping and falling, and can be difficult to negotiate in a wheelchair.
20. If the bed is too low to comfortably get in and out, raising the bed with bed risers can make it easier and safer.
Most Accidents Occur in the Bathroom
21. Grab bars can make getting in and out of the shower and on and off the toilet safer and easier. Check the diameter of the bars. Larger diameter grab bars that are American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant are easier to grab.
22. An elevated toilet seat or elevated toilet makes it easier to get on and off it.
23. Non-skid mats near the shower, bath, toilet and sink can help prevent accidental falls and slippage. Bathmat in the bath and shower can also help prevent falls.
24. A handheld showerhead is easier to use when mobility is limited.
25. A bath chair or bath bench can reduce slipping when getting in and out of the bath or shower. And sitting while showering may be easier and safer when someone is weak or tired.
Remember Hallways and Other Rooms
26. Handrails on both sides of steps can make walking up and down safer. An expensive investment is a stair lift, which may or may not be an option. You may need to consider if it’s possible to have your elder stay mostly on one floor.
27. Making the edges of the steps clearly visible can help your elder see the step without falling.
28. Lighting should be bright enough for elders. An 80 year-old person needs 3 times the illumination a younger adult needs.
29. Place a table near the entry to place a purse, keys or even packages.
30. Doorknobs can be difficult to open with arthritis or weakness of hands. Consider levers instead of knobs for doors used by elders.
What tips do you have for making a home safer for elders? Share them in the comments so others can benefit from your knowledge.
To your happy&healthy caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D.
Ambassador of Caregiving, HowToLiveOnPurpose.com
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