The Family Home – What to do now? Part 2
Seniors want to age in place, a completely understandable desire which makes it vitally important to do what we can to make their home safe & enjoyable. There are many things to consider so starting sooner rather than later is important. Starting now is better than putting it off until there’s an issue.
It’s important to have the home evaluated for safety and accessibility. There are so many things to consider that getting an outside opinion is honestly a good idea.
To make their home more comfortable and safer, consider the following:
- Widening doorways; this is especially important for wheelchair and walker users.
- Adding more lighting; as we age, dim lighting makes it very hard to perform everyday tasks & lack of contrast can make memory related confusion worse.
- Changing flooring to prevent tripping hazards, throw rugs are especially dangerous.
- Changing all door knobs to easy-to-use handles. A D ring shape is recommended
- Adding handrails near the bed and getting chairs that have an armrest making getting up & down much easier.
- Raising the height of appliances, and installing pull-out shelves. Pull down shelves are also a plus in upper cabinets to prevent straining to reach things or the necessity of a step ladder that can pose problems for seniors with balance issues.
- Installing grab-bars in the shower and around the toilet. You may want to look into an elevated toilet seat. A shower seat is also recommended.
What A List!
This is likely only a partial list of the items to take into consideration. A list like this is why I strongly recommend getting started as soon as possible. Tackling all these issues at once would be exhausting and costly. Consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a contractor who has undergone special training to help homeowners make age-related home modifications. I’m sure they can help create a list of items in order of priority and a good specialist should be able guide you in what you can tackle and what is best for a professional to handle. Safety is the primary concern.
Some Things To Think About
Before looking for a specialized contractor consider the following:
- Do I want to add a bathroom and possibly a bedroom to the main level? Main floor master bedrooms are a huge plus and even help with resale value.
- How can I make my kitchen more functional? Keep in mind that kitchens can be costly so do only what is absolutely necessary. Staying out of the frills is important unless you have unlimited funds and time.
- Am I worried about preventing falls? The answer to this question is always yes.
- How much money should I budget for this project? Whatever they tell you, double it because we’ve all heard contractor horror stories or seen them on HGTV.
- Will I need to get a home equity loan?
- How will other members of my family benefit from modifications?
- Can remodeling increase the energy efficiency of my home? Making energy efficient modifications is a good idea if your initial list of changes isn’t too long or costly.
- Where do I find a professional I can consult with about my needs?
Safety Is Just As Important Now As When We Were Young
Like baby proofing a home before the baby is mobile it’s important to tackle potential safety issues before something happens. I didn’t do this until my daughter started crawling and it was literally a race to keep her out of harms way. I ended up baby-proofing on the run. You don’t want to wait till there’s an issue to tackle getting Moms’ home fixed up. Doing things in advance will give everyone peace of mind. It also spreads out the work and the cost.
The biggest challenges our home creates for aging in place are multi levels, bathrooms and kitchens. It’s difficult to “fix” a multi level home but there are some things that can help reduce potential tripping hazards. Again, this is where getting professional advice is really important.
Improvements You May Want To Consider
- Make sure the stove isn’t a burn hazard. Side or front mounted knobs are better than knobs in the back.
- Pull down shelves in upper cabinets. Slide out shelves in lower cabinets.
- Lazy Susans or pull out shelves in the refrigerator.
- Have microwaves at eye level if possible, same for ovens. Consider using a large toaster oven as a replacement.
- Walk in showers with little or no lip.
- Slip proof tiles. There are products you can buy to make this happen.
- Vanities that aren’t too low.
- Grab bars around the toilet and in the shower.
This is by no means a complete list. Walk around the home, get down low, lie down, sit down, whatever it takes to put yourself in their position. Determining what is a problem now and what may become a problem later is extremely important.
- Major Modifications
- zero-threshold entryways
- wider doorways and halls
- offset door hinges which make room for wheelchairs or two people walking side by side.
- light switches that can be reached from a wheelchair or bed
- a stair climber
- a frameless walk in shower with a sloped floor instead of a step over threshold
- a raised toilet seat, grab bars around the toilet & in the shower
- raising the height of appliances
- adding pull down shelves in kitchen cabinets
- moving laundry facilities to the main floor