If you or your parents are 65 or older, there is a 40% chance that you or they will enter an elderly care facility at some point. This means just under half of people who survive past 65 will have to leave their home and move into a new environment.
Moving is stressful for anyone, no matter what the situation. Imagine moving from your familiar home environment when you are dealing with dementia, or even just the mild forgetfulness of old age. Losing one’s physical and mental capacities is frightening and makes the strongest of us vulnerable. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to simply modify your home into a space that accommodates you as you age? There wouldn’t be a traumatic move to an unfamiliar home, just a few helpful additions to the home you love and feel comfortable in. Home modifications for the elderly and disabled can make your home senior-accessible for your aging loved ones, here's how.
Bathrooms are the most important aspect of home modification for the elderly or disabled. Wet, slippery floors, high, inaccessible tub walls, and hard corners make it a common place for injury or worse. Everyday, 640 people are treated for non-fatal bathroom falls in the United States. It’s considered the most dangerous room in the house, and it only gets worse as you get older.
But, there are many easy fixes for this problem. While it’s impossible to make the bathroom totally safe, there are some cheap and simple ways to make it safer.
Grab bars should be installed, into studs, near the toilet, in the shower, and anywhere else that one needs to crouch, sit, or stand. Think of it this way, if you are just standing, it’s easy to stay standing. But, if you need to move around, sit down, or stand back up, that can be tricky with older people. Poor muscle tone, arthritis, and inner ear problems make them less stable in these situations.
Floor mats should be put down liberally. First, floor mats soften the hard floor, and second, they make it less slippery. Make sure the mats have a rubberized layer on the bottom to add grip. A floor mat without the rubber will actually be a hazard, making it easier to slip.
The best bathing solution for seniors is a shower with a plastic chair. Bathtubs present a hazard since the person has to step over the edge. As easy as this might seem to younger people, it can be a scary proposition for someone with weak joints, poor muscle tone and arthritis.
Ceramic tile is the best finishing material for a shower since the grout line makes the floor less slippery. One inch tiles on the shower pan, sealed with a grout sealer, will be a beautiful and safe shower floor for those who are at risk of slipping.
The shower head should be handheld, with the option of hanging it for regular showering. Install a grab bar, again, into studs. With the shower set up this way, a person can shower regularly or can sit and bathe themselves in comfort. The progressive nature of aging should match your retrofit strategy. You may not need grab bars now, but getting them installed after you have an accident is less ideal.
Including grab bars, handheld shower heads for easy accessibility, shower benches, and curbless entry for the disabled.
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You may not be approaching your golden years, but you want to make your home comfortable for your loved ones who are. A total overhaul may not be necessary, but some simple tweaks could do a lot of good.
Entry steps, or any steps, strike fear in the hearts of many people in their later years. If the knee or ankle joint fails in taking that step or steps, it means a nasty and painful fall. As a young person, you take steps for granted. You don’t even notice them.
Consider this. Bind one of your knees with a bandage so that it’s hard to bend. Now go around your home and notice the areas that are difficult to maneuver with your knee bound up. This will help you spot problem areas that you may have ignored. You grandfather might be too proud to mention that he is afraid to climb the three stone steps to your front door. Having this empathy for him will make a big difference in making him comfortable and welcome.
Simple ramps can be placed around the house. This might mean portable or permanent, depending on your need. If your great aunt house sits a couple of times a year for you, permanent ramps might be a better investment.
Low seating is can make seniors uncomfortable too. They have less control in their thigh musculature, so sitting is more like falling. Falling a long way can be unnerving. Then, when it’s time to stand up, they have the opposite problem. Those weak quadricep muscles are not strong enough to get them out of that bean bag chair easily.
This doesn’t mean you need to replace all of your furniture. Have one or two chairs available and make sure no one sits in them during visits. Tell them, “that’s grandma’s chair!” These chairs should be high, have firm cushions, and be stable and strong.
While you don’t need to outfit your whole bathroom, there should be a bar installed near the toilet. You don’t want your guests to dread using the restroom and fear a humiliating fall.
Whether you are approaching your golden years yourself, or you want to make a family member more comfortable in your home, making these modifications can make a difference. Imagine living in your home for ten years longer than you would have without the modifications. Imagine having a loved one fall and hurt himself in your home. Consider all the realities and make some changes that make sense for your situation.
Ready to make your home senior-friendly? The Gainey Flooring team has reputable experience remodeling bathrooms to fit your needs.
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