If you are preparing to have an elderly parent, grandparent, or other loved one live with you, you have to take care of the obvious things, like where he or she will sleep and how to fit their dietary restrictions into the weekly family dinner menu. But it’s also important to make sure they are comfortable and safe in their new home too.
To ensure your loved one has an easy time getting around your home, using everyday appliances, and generally staying safe, consider updating your home with the principals of universal design in mind. The goal in universal design is to make buildings and other spaces easily accessible to all people, including the elderly and people with disabilities.
Take some time to walk through every room in your home and consider the following seven key remodeling projects that will help to make home living better for an aging family member.
1) Replacing stairs with ramps
Elderly family members often lack the muscle strength or coordination to successfully navigate stairs. Gently sloping ramps provide an alternative to stairwells that are also easier to accommodate a senior family member who is using a walker, a cane, or even a wheelchair or motorized scooter to get around inside the home.
2) Enlarged doorways
Most doorways will not accommodate the easy passage of a wheelchair or scooter. Consider widening doorways throughout the home so your loved one will find it easier to navigate from one room to the next.
3) Bathroom modifications
The bathroom often proves to be the most dangerous room in the home when it comes to elderly family members having slips and falls. To make your bathroom as safe as possible, consider adding seating in the shower or replacing a traditional bathtub with a walk-in tub. Hand-held showerheads can be easier to use than regular shower heads. Remodel the bathroom entrance to eliminate any curbing or step-up that could prove dangerous for a senior.
4) Non-slip surfaces
To provide your loved one with more secure footing, cover any smooth flooring surfaces with rubber mats or other non-slip flooring. Having a non-slip surface in the tub or shower stall is also essential to prevent falls.
5) Easy to grasp handles
Hands that are painful from arthritis find it difficult to grasp traditional handles on doors, cabinets, and closets. Replace all doorknobs with lever handles.
6) Easier accessibility to controls/switches
Rather than traditional toggle light switches, install flat-panel light switches that are much easier to use.
7) Handrails prevent falls
Many seniors don’t feel steady when they get up from a seated position or are walking through the house. Those suffering from osteoporosis can experience sudden bone fractures that cause falls and slips. Installing handrails and bars at strategic places throughout the home can go a long way in helping the elderly to maintain balance and footing.
Install a grab bar next to the toilet as well as inside the shower stall and consider placing one near their bed to assist them in getting solid footing before they get up from the bed and into a standing position. Handrails are also essential at stairs and ramps to provide added support for those family members whose age makes them less mobile, agile and coordinated.
Accommodating an elderly loved one in your home is a great way to help them live with ease and comfort long into their golden years. Contact Murray Lampert Design, Build, and Remodel if you have any questions about universal design, aging in place, or how you can make your home safer and more accessible.