Many older adults approach the idea of long-term care with trepidation[1. “Seniors Fear Loss of Independence, Nursing Homes More Than Death,” November 12, 2007, https://www.marketingcharts.com/demographics-and-audiences/boomers-and-older/seniors-fear-loss-of-independence-nursing-homes-more-than-death-2343/] – and understandably so. Though settings such as retirement communities and assisted living facilities have their benefits, nothing can quite compare with one’s own house.
If you’ve discussed the possibility of placement with your loved one, and they are not amenable to the idea, you may be concerned for their safety. After all, as they grow older, it will become more and more difficult for them to take care of themselves and their house. However, there are alternatives that don’t involve moving anywhere. These can be accomplished by making changes to a senior home.
Ways to modify an older adult’s home — and why
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that today’s homes are usually built for a younger, more agile population. The builders assume that everyone is in good health, or able-bodied. However, older adults may have special considerations that mean their houses need modifying.[2. “Home Modifications for the Elderly,” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/home-modifications-elderly-32265.html]
If you know someone in a wheelchair, you’re already aware of the trouble they have with stairs. But in an older adult’s case, it’s not only assistive devices (like wheelchairs and walkers) that can make maneuvering stairs a hassle. Certain medical conditions may lead older adults to have problems raising their legs even a few inches above the ground – just the height needed to manage one step. Having an outdoor ramp to their front door can open up a world of freedom for an older adult with mobility issues.
The doors in most homes are fashioned to accommodate the width of a person’s body, with a little bit of room on the sides. Just like houses with numerous stairs, they don’t take into consideration those with wheelchairs, walkers, and the like. Widening the doorways in an older adult’s home can mean the difference between them coming and going as they please – or staying trapped inside.
Chair lifts are becoming more popular in senior homes today, and it’s easy to see why. Like ramps that go from the front door to the street, chair lifts open up a whole new world to older adults. They allow the homeowner to reclaim use of their second floor. And they’re not just good for those who lack mobility; chair lifts can work wonders for people suffering from generalized weakness or frailty.
First-floor full bathroom
Most first-floor bathrooms are “half baths,” consisting of little more than a toilet and sink. However, they’re not ideal for those whose only “full baths” (the ones with a tub or shower) are on the second floor. If your loved one doesn’t have a chair lift to reach the full bath, adding a tub or shower to the half bath makes sense. While it’s definitely an investment in terms of time and money, at least it’s easier than adding an entire bathroom!
While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, make sure your loved one’s has plenty of grab bars, whether they are in the shower, tub, or by the commode. This makes getting in and out of the bathing area easier and safer, and assists with transfers to and from the toilet.
Tub or shower install
Speaking of tubs and showers, an ordinary bath enclosure may not do for your loved one. Many older adults have trouble entering and exiting them even with grab bars. Newer models often come with full-size doors, so that it’s easy to walk right in (and out), especially with a home health aide to lend a hand.
Modifying senior homes can help seniors stay home
The majority of older adults wish to stay in their own home for as long as possible. In addition to hiring visiting home care professionals, modifying senior homes is a great way to help your loved one achieve this goal. Talk to them about some of the issues above, and see how you both can make adjustments that will maximize their standard of living and independence.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.