Home adaptations for the elderly
Given the choice, most people would rather live out their days in their own homes. But when mobility starts to falter, they may need to think about new ways to organise their homes, and the aids that can help them remain independent and safe.
The good news is that there are numerous easy ways to enable our older family and friends to continue moving around relatively freely, and carry on with their day-to-day tasks, like cooking, housework, personal care and even gardening.
So what can we do to help our older family and friends to be independent with modifications around the home? Let’s take one room at a time.
It’s really important to minimise the risk of falling. That’s because as we age our bones become more fragile and take longer to heal if we damage them. At the same time muscles become weaker and balance can be affected too, so it’s easier to fall and harder to get up again.
An easy first step is to remove unnecessary furniture and rugs, especially at low levels, and rearrange what’s left to avoid trip hazards. That includes trailing wires for lights, TV and any other electrical devices.
It’s a handy idea to use litter grabbers to pick up items that fall on the floor, like remote controls and magazines.
For those who have difficulty moving from sitting to standing, you could consider riser chairs or similar that help to lift a person from sitting to standing.
Kitchens are usually designed for people who can stretch, bend and even climb with ease, although more thought is now being applied to what an age-friendly kitchen can look like.
Now could be the time to rearrange the cupboards so there’s no need to use steps to reach the higher shelves.
Maintenance of appliances is important, and in time you may want to look at different ranges of equipment.
For any cleaning tasks, there are long-handled or telescopic versions of tools like dustpans and brushes available, which make day-to-day chores more manageable.
Arthritic joints and lack of strength can become an issue when cooking, but there are plenty of kitchen aids available generally, such as jar and cap grippers or kettle tippers that let you pour hot water more safely.
Decluttering the bedroom where possible is an excellent idea, and ensuring that clothes and shoes are put away out of harm’s way. Added to that you could install low-level night lights in sockets to help people get around safely if they need to get up in the night.
A good night’s sleep is really important, but can be hard to come by as time passes. Support pillows and backrests together with a good mattress can aid sleep, while grab rails and bed guards can make night time safer. For some, getting in and out of bed can be a particular challenge. An electric turning bed can help by converting the bed to a chair, making it easier to get up, and back again at night.
There are plenty of options for safe personal care, such as walk-in baths and showers that remove the need to step up and down. At the same time, it’s a good idea to make as sure as possible that slipping on a wet floor is avoided, so you could have a look at products such as anti-slip tiles for floors and anywhere that might be used as a handhold, as well as in the shower itself.
It’s possible to find toilets that can be installed at different heights to suit the less mobile, or removable seats to change the height if a number of people use the same bathroom.
Grab rails can make moving around the house safer and in the bathroom particularly.
Throughout the home
Older people can be remarkably reluctant to use wrist and pendant alarms, but these devices can make all the difference to someone who falls and has no one at hand to help. Even if the time has come for carers to visit regularly, it can be a long wait on the floor if someone takes a tumble at night.
If vision is becoming a problem, then turning up the lighting around the home might help to avoid trip hazards.
If your older parent enjoys gardening, there’s no need to stop as mobility lessens. There are garden design and maintenance changes you can consider, and a wide range of tools available to make the joys of growing easier to maintain.
These adjustments to the home do not need to happen all at once. They can be considered according to your loved one’s changing needs.