Changing the accessibility, adaptability, and design of the home can help your loved one not only age comfortably but safely. Though the work involved in doing this can range from major construction, such as adding wheelchair ramps or widening doorways, to simple improvements, like installing hand rails or rearranging furniture, making the home a safe environment helps your aging loved one maintain their independence and keeps them in the place they know and love.
Rather than expecting your loved one to adapt to their home environment, here are six tips for changing the home environment to cater to their needs instead.
- Assess the home – Every senior is different, so changes will vary from home to home. Walk through the space and do an individual assessment. Look for potential hazards and identify ways to reduce them. Since your loved one’s need and limitations will change as he/she ages, it’s helpful to view this step as an ongoing process, not a one-time deal.
- Address safety concerns first – As you should with any home, make sure that safety precautions are dealt with first. All entry and exit points to the home should be clear and accessible in case of an emergency, which may mean removing clutter or even rearranging the furniture. Install smoke detectors outside of each bedroom and the kitchen and replace batteries every six months (don’t forget fire extinguishers too). Ensure there is adequate lighting in all rooms and check for burnt out light bulbs regularly.
- Remove fall hazards – While a fall may not seem like a serious risk to you, to a senior it can often be the catalyst that sets their health on a downward path – not only does recovery take longer but falling once often increases the chances of falling again. Eliminate fall hot spots by removing throw rugs, taping down loose carpeting or electrical cords, and leveling out raised doorways. If you’re loved one uses a cane or walker, add rubber tips to improve grip and stability.
- Simplify daily activities – You can discourage unsafe behavior by simply making every day activities easier for your loved one. For example, moving commonly used items to lower shelves, purchasing a cart to transport heavy groceries into the house, or adding a shower chair to the bathroom promotes independence but in a much safer manner.
- Get neighbors involved – Though the “nosy neighbor” often gets a bad rep, their
watchful eyes can be helpful, especially when you can’t monitor your loved one 24/7. They may notice newspapers piling up on your dad’s doorstep or realize they haven’t seen your mom watering her garden for a while. Consider giving your contact information to a trusted neighbor and ask them to reach out to you if they notice anything out of the ordinary. This is just one of the many ways you can build a network of support to keep your loved one at home.
- Partner with a home care company – Another great way to build this network of support is to partner with a local home care company, like ALTRES Medical. Our trusted caregivers can provide a variety of services, from simple medication reminders to helping with daily living activities, such as cleaning, bathing, and even cooking.
Aging at home has its benefits though it does come with some risks. And no matter what you do you won’t be able to prevent all accidents from happening. However, with a little effort and not a lot of money, you can create home environment that caters to your loved one’s needs and safety.