As we age, living independently in our own homes can become risky to our health and well-being. Steps that were once climbed without a second thought now become nearly impossible to navigate. Cupboards once opened every day seem far out of arm’s reach. Showers now become a falling hazard instead of part of a daily routine.
Just because parts of our homes are no longer suitable for independent living does not mean that those parts cannot be modified to better meet the needs of our elderly loved ones. With advancing technologies, more options than ever are available for altering certain aspects of a home to make it more comfortable and accessible for aging parents and family members.
Some of the many possible home modifications to make aging at home easier include:
- Ramps to Exterior Doors: Ramps make it easier to enter and exit the home, whether your loved one uses a wheelchair or not. Avoiding stairs helps prevent falls.
- Widened Doorways: Should a wheelchair or a walker be necessary, wider doorways make moving room to room within the home more comfortable.
- Handrails on Stairs and in Hallways: While most staircases have handrails on at least one side, adding rails to both sides and putting them along hallways within the home ensures that your loved one has a safe, secure grip wherever they go.
- Stair Lifts: If the time comes where stairs become hazardous to the patient’s health, stair lifts are a great option for access to all levels of a home.
- Remote Controlled Recliners: Many elderly people do not have the arm strength to push or pull levers on recliners but still need the option to put their feet up. Remote controlled recliners allow patients to maneuver lounge chairs at the push of a button, with many models even elevating the person nearly to their feet when needed.
- Remote Controlled Switches: Flipping light switches and fan switches seems like no big deal for most of us, but when an aging individual has to cross an entire room to turn the switch, it becomes a hassle. Remote electrical switches allow you to connect a remote to these and other everyday household appliances so that they can be powered on and off from a chair, a bed or anywhere in the home.
- Shower Chairs: Standing in the shower can be dangerous for elderly people, so shower chairs provide a safe alternative that still allow patients to shower on their own.
- Bathtub Doors: Especially fitting for wheelchair patients, some bathtubs allow for new tubs to be molded over the existing one to include doors for better maneuverability.
- Bathroom Grab Bars: Bars can easily be installed near toilets, bathtubs, showers and sinks to allow secure grips anywhere in the bathroom. These can also be disguised as towel racks.
- Lowered Drawers and Cabinets: Aging people can have trouble reaching for household items in high cabinets or drawers. Simply installing them at lower levels, or putting needed items in lower drawers or cabinets, will allow for easier reach.
- Lever Handles on Doors and Cabinets: Patients with arthritis or weakened grips can have issues with turning everyday round handles, so these modified handles can provide easier grips.
Many of these adjustments in the home can be made by a family member or friend, while others may require a home visit by a contractor or handyman.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) offers many resources on how to best make home modifications for aging loved ones. NAHB partnered with AARP to create Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) training for remodelers and contractors who can help families and caretakers make structural changes that can keep homes safe for aging homeowners. Visit NAHB’s website for more information on finding a CAPS certified contractor or handyman.
For more information about keeping your aging family members safe at home, and about how other home modifications can be made, contact us. Let us help you care for your loved one and allow them to remain in the home.