Bringing your elderly parents into your home is a blessing for some; it provides quality time together that you may not otherwise have. But moving your parents in your home also often requires retro-fitting some new features to ensure they remain safe.
If your home is going to be a temporary stage for transitioning between independent living and moving into a residence designed for seniors, it can be difficult to determine how to balance safety over the short term without damaging your home’s value over the long term.
We’re going to break down the modifications you may need to make to your home and how to make them without impact your home’s value (too much):
The 5 Key Elements To An Elderly Friendly Home
No home will ever be accident-proof, so it’s important not to go whole-hog and pad the walls and put alarms everywhere.
In fact, that is the wrong thing to do because home modifications should enhance your parent’s independence; not force them to retreat.
10 Home Safety Tips For Seniors
- Buy a 19” high toilet
- Install grab bars next to it
- Put a grab bar in the shower
- Place a folding chair in the shower
- Install bedrails
- Remove thresholds
- Pull up carpeting
- Change door handles to lever style
- Make sidewalks easier to navigate
- Purchase an economical access ramp
Do A Quick Assessment So You Don’t Spend Money On Unneccesary Upgrades
It’s important to identify how and when you’ll modify your home (ideally before a crisis occurs) using a home assessment.
The best way to perform an assessment is to spend a day with your parent to see how they manage their daily activities. Alternatively, schedule a home visit from an occupational therapist to help you figure out where your money and time are best invested back into your house.
4 Easy Parts Of The House To Modify
As long as you aren’t dealing with stairs or major mobility issues, many of the changes you’ll make will be simple. Let’s break them down room by room: bathroom, bedroom, common areas, and outside.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in your home – not just for seniors. It combines water and already slippery surfaces with few soft places to land and too many hard surfaces like granite vanities and steel bathtubs to hit during a fall.
It’s particularly dangerous for elderly people who have found their arms and legs begin to weaken.
There are three common modifications to make to your bathroom to make it safer.
Elevated Toilets Make It Easier To Stand
The height of a typical toilet is under 17” but you can buy chair height toilets that are as high as 19” tall from the seat to the floor. An elongated bowl will probably be appreciated too. To be completely honest a chair height toilet with an elongated bowl is an upgrade that everyone in the house will more than likely enjoy.
Toilet Grab Bars Help Prevent Falls
There are models available that are clamped in place and don’t require hardware. However, they’re not very sturdy, so they’re not ideal for those who need a lot of extra help or those who are overweight. If you can, opt for the bars that mount to the wall instead.
Another option is to combine the seat with a hydraulic lifting system to help them get in and out. This is easy to install and uninstall and provides a safe option for independence in the bathroom without compromising safety.
Tub Grab Bars Prevent Wet Surface Slips
Portable grab bars use non-skid suction cups to attach to flat surfaces. They’re not designed to carry a persons full weight, but they give stability getting in and and out of the tub to prevent falls.
Do plenty of research and read lot’s of reviews before you purchase a set of grab bars. The Vive brand has an excellent track record and they are surprisingly inexpensive considering how much people rave about them.
Chairs In The Shower Make Washing Up Easier
These are easy to install and can be simply be taken out when you need more room. Don’t forget to buy a detacheable showerhead that can reach the chair.
Balancing safety and independence in the bedroom can also be tricky, particularly if your parent struggles to get in and out of bed or has a difficult time waking up on their own.
Bed Rails Can Make Getting In And Out Of Bed Possible Without Your Help
Using bed rails is a simple way to help your parent get in and out of bed on their own. Bed rails are attached to the bed and provide extra support for getting up and lying down. They can also be used similarly to a hospital bed by serving as a guard to prevent them from falling out of bed.
Accidents and injuries have been known to happen with bedrails, however. Here is a study from the FDA to help you understand the potential risks involved. While risks are slim, it’s important to know that they have their downfalls.
Floors and Doors
Little areas around your home can make life more difficult for elderly parents, particularly if they’re using a wheelchair, walker, or scooter.
Remove Thresholds So They Don’t Trip
Little modifications can be made to make things easier for getting around. Removing thresholds or saddles from doorways makes passing through doors easier and keeps shuffling feet from tripping on them.
If it’s not possible to remove them you can purchase ramps that make it easier to get over them like in the picture below.
Pull Up Carpeting For Walker And Wheelchair Access
You might also need to make small changes like removing rugs from pathways or even removing the carpeting altogether. In some cases, you may need to reconsider the flooring in the main rooms.
Hardwood and laminate flooring are smoother than carpets and some kinds of tile and stone. Smooth floors eliminate trip hazards and make it easier to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. A nice benefit is that installing hardwood will likely increase the value of your house.
Widen Doorways For Wheelchairs
Widening doorways may also be required; wheelchairs typically need at least 32” but ideally 36” of space to make maneuvering easier.
Swap Out Door Handles To Make Opening Them Easier
This is an easy job that anyone can do. The round handles can be painful for arthritic or weak hands to grasp and turn at the same time. Installing a lever handle makes it easy to open closed doors.
It’s easy to neglect your outdoor area, but many accidents can happen near the front door or on back patios.
Make Sidewalks Easier To Navigate
Brighter outdoor lighting is key, particularly during the winter months when the days become shorter. You may also need to rework any shrubs or potted plants to keep sidewalks and other pathways clear. In some cases, pathways may need to be widened to make room for wheelchairs.
Economical & Easy To Install Wheelchair Access Ramps
If the entrance to your home isn’t wheelchair accessible, then you’ll need to address that with an entry ramp. Even if they aren’t using a wheelchair, it’s good to consider planning for a ramp.
Fortunately, ADA compliant ramps are easy to install and remove.
If you don’t need ADA complaince for your home (most of us don’t) there a lot of local companies that make ramps. Most of them are rated for 600 pound or more, which is usually enough for the wheelchair, a person in the chair, and someone pushing behind it.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking about moving your elderly parents into your home. Home modifications are just a small – but important – part of the process.