Q: What home updates will help my elderly parents?
A: Whether you have an elderly parent moving in with you, or you want to ensure you can continue to live in your home longer, here are a few updates that can be made for greater safety and comfort, now and in the future.
Preparation is the key to prevention. Compare the current living situation to the problems that you anticipated you or your relatives might experience that are progressive in nature, such as arthritis or vision problems.
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If hindered mobility or eyesight are issues, attach sturdy railings to indoor and outdoor stairwells and add a wheelchair ramp, if possible. Consider widening hallways and creating open floor plans to aid in maneuvering walkers or wheelchairs. If you are remodeling your bathroom, look into no-lip or walk-in showers that can accommodate a wheelchair, if necessary.
Keep in mind that even if the rooms in your home are not open concept, you can still increase space between furniture pieces and reduce clutter.
For the visually impaired, keeping all areas of the home well lit is vital. Ideally, there should be a light switch at the entrance to every room. Place a lamp next to the bed and nightlights in the hallway to light the way from the bed to the bathroom. If the home has a stairway, check that lighting illuminates each step and that it can be turned on from both the top and bottom of the stairs.
Make sure you have adequate lighting outdoors, as well, so the path to the front door and garage are clearly lit. Motion-sensor lights or lights set on a timer can also provide protection against theft and vandalism.
Falling is the most-reported accident among the elderly. To prevent falls, make sure rugs and carpeting are secured and lay flat. Ensure all electrical cords are out of foot-traffic areas, and keep rooms free of clutter. Check that the transition between different types of flooring is seamless.
If updating or remodeling the bathroom is not an immediate option, there are still improvements you can make for the more vulnerable members of your household. Nonskid mats and nonslip flooring in and around the bathtub is imperative.
Walk-in tubs are the most accessible option, and they employ watertight seals to avoid dangerous leaks. If a walk-in tub is not a possibility, update your current fixture with grab bars, a shower seat that has been secured to the wall and anti-scald controls. Other conveniences include handheld showerheads that allow seniors to stay seated, and large clearly labeled controls. Showers should be wide and have a threshold that is as low as possible to make it easy to step into and out of the stall.
A raised toilet with ample space between the shower and vanity is ideal for those with a walking aid. Having easy-to-grip railings around the toilet will assist those who struggle to move up and down.
HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.