It’s almost Thanksgiving when many families will travel to visit their parents and grandparents. These visits, often to our childhood homes, are fun and memorable, but they can also offer a glimpse into the lives of our aging relatives. Is your childhood home safe and accessible for an aging parent?
85% of people over 65 say they would prefer to stay in their home, rather than relocate to a smaller home or an assisted living or nursing community. If your family members feel this way, it is important to assess whether any changes or adaptations will be required to make their home safe for them to live independently in.
So while you spend time with your loved ones this holiday season, use this checklist to evaluate the safety and accessibility of your parent or grandparent’s home.
Stairways & Multi-level Homes
Does your loved one live in a multi-story home? Stairs increase the chances of falling and are difficult to navigate as you get older. And what about if your parents need to use a walker or wheelchair? Ideally you want everything they need to be on one level. This includes the kitchen, their bedroom & an accessible full bath.
Lighting & Windows
Is the home well lit? Are light switches easy to reach at all entrances to the rooms? Remember that your loved one may be have a hard time seeing in low light. If there is no overhead light in a room, an easy solution would be to set up a switch to operate any lamps that can be turned on from the entrance to the room. Do not overlook lighting in places like pantries, stairways, garages, and closets either. You also want plenty of windows that are easy to operate but also lock for safety. Consider adding nightlights where possible as well.Non-Slip Flooring
Pay close attention to any tile and hardwood floors to make sure they are not slippery, both wet and dry. Secure or remove area rugs to reduce the chance your loved one may trip over them.
Layout and Hallways
Think about the open spaces in your loved one’s home. Are the hallways wide enough for a wheelchair? Do the rooms have enough room to maneuver through with a wheelchair or walker (a 60″ diameter space is considered suitable)? How is the flow of traffic through the home? Consider rearranging furniture to open the space up and remove tripping hazards and shorten travel distances.
Grab Bars and Railings
Installing grab bars in the bath by the toilet and shower and railings on any stairways should be a priority to help prevent falls. Grab Bars provide support and stability and will allow your loved one to maintain their independence and privacy.
Level Entry Shower
Many bathroom falls occur when a person is stepping in or out of the shower or tub. Stepping over the barrier, whether that be a tub wall or curb, can compromise their balance, and in those situations, even a grab bar may not be enough to keep them from falling. The safest option is to remove the curb or tub entirely.
We recommend a level entry shower with 4-way slope to a center drain as it provides optimal stability for bathers, particularly if they use a wheel chair or other other mobility aids. A person’s ability to bathe independently is crucial to their physical health and emotional well-being. Accessible showering and bathing options can improve the quality of life and health your aging-in-place relative.
Care & Maintenance of the Home
One of the most overlooked aspects of aging-in-place is the day to day maintenance of the home. Evaluate details such as yard care, access to electrical breakers, plumbing, cleaning & dusting, taking out the garbage, pet care, laundry, etc… If your loved one is struggling with any of these areas, you may need to consider hiring regular help with housekeeping and home maintenance.
Support & Community Amenities
Is your loved one’s community conducive to their aging-in-place? Consider things like distance and ease of access to doctors/hospitals, grocery stores, and transportation. Don’t forget entertainment and fellowship either! Do you know their neighbors? Exchange phone numbers and introduce yourselves and your loved one (if they haven’t already met). Having someone next door or across the street who can keep an eye out for your loved one is a great idea!
Aging-in-Place Remodels – Where to begin?
How did your parent’s or grandparent’s home perform as you went through this checklist? Do you have some changes to make? Aging-in-place renovations can feel overwhelming. Remodels do take time and investment, but the best thing to do is handle it before it is an urgent problem. The costliest renovations are the ones you have to do in a hurry.
A good place to start is the bathroom. The majority of senior falls happen in the bathroom or on stairs. The Level Entry Shower System™ creates accessible, curbless shower floors and can be used in bathrooms of all sizes. Accessorize with shower seats and stability accessories such as grab bars, soap dishes, towel bars, etc… Best of all, it can be installed without changing the structural design of your home, making it the perfect choice for remodels and retrofits.