Five DIY Projects to Help Older Parent Stay at Home of Choice

older people in love

Let me take a guess…You wish you had more time for yourself, family and friends, don’t we all?

Children, parents, work, home…it is endless.

And when it comes to worrying about older parent’s safety at home, you just hope that she stays more or less safe and age at home for as long as possible. And trust me, she wishes  for that as well.

The last thing that mom or dad want is for you to run  second shift helping them out in their house.

In fact, there is the whole home modification industry – Aging in Place  that is about aging at home of your choice as people get older.

Besides, who wants a huge nursing home or assisted living bill that makes you choke?

As we get older, we keep on golfing, swimming, playing tennis but if the vision, flexibility and hearing are not the same, there is an obvious threat to safety at home and just one fall in elderly age can change everything.

If that is what you are concerned about, you will save yourself a lot of time and money if you modify a home for a safer, more independent living.

Besides, finding a solution for your older parent to be safer at home can be easier than you expect.

Here are some suggestions for a few weekend DIY projects that might save you, literally.

1. Change and add lighting

 If there is one thing that you are able to do-consider lighting.

To adjust lighting for an aging eye, this is what you need to understand: As per American Lighting Association a 20-year-old needs three times less lighting than even a 40-year-old person. So whatever you think you needed at twenty multiply it by three for your parents’ home.

And here is why…older parents

Visual impairment is # 1 of top 4 reasons for loss of independence among seniors because of falls!

80% of people over 60 years old with overall good vision do not perform well at everyday tasks if the lighting is wrong, for example low contrast and glare. This makes you wonder if your older parent could  read more or be more willing to go on Skype with you if it wasn’t for the glare from the screen. They might not say it, but glare can be quite disturbing.

These are the things you can do, some as DIY projects and others require a professional electrician :

  •  Install more light fixtures or, at least substitute existing bulbs with more powerful ones. You can use compact florescent lamps or LEDs to save the energy cost.  Make sure that hallways, stairs, and bathrooms are lit especially well.You can find the light fixtures here.
  •  Buy additional light fixture that are concealed or have shades and try not to use exposed lamps. Make sure that all the lighting is on dimmers. If financially possible, consider buying a special age related reading lamp by Holtkotter specifically designed with aging in mind.

2. Change doorknobs to lever-style handles

This you might be able to handle yourself as a DIY project.

To understand how a person with arthritis feels trying to turn a round shiny door knob put a thick sock on your hand and then try it.  Feels uncomfortable?  Lever-style handles work better for someone with less finger flexibility. Also, seeing the key hole and turning the key can be difficult for older people.

  •   Substitute round knobs with door lever handles
  •  Install electronic locks that can be opened with a proximity card or swipe card (similar to a credit card). These can also be programmed to allow access to certain users at specific times only, which provide security.

 3.  Install slip resistant flooring

Falls are number one cause of accidents of people over 65. Over 1/3 are caused by a fall in elderly every year.

Tile remains the top product used for flooring in baths. Textured finishes on tile and grout lines create a slip-resistant surface in the bath. Polished marble tile is classic but one of the most dangerous products used in the bath due to its slippery when wet surface. One possible solution is to install a smaller tile size with textured accent tiles to create a slip-resistant surface for a bathroom or the entry.

 4. Rearrange furniture

Next, consider how spaces can be adjusted or revamped to enhance your parents’ routines and enjoyment of those special features of their home. Keep an open mind about the activities that they enjoy the most and relocate some furniture to accommodate those activities. Is there a way to put a desk in the room with the nice view of the yard? Can a low round chair be substituted with an inexpensive chair with a higher seat with wood arms?

5. Adjust outside for gardening

There is nothing more healthful and helpful for your older parent than gardening. It develops physical strength, coordination and gives enormous pleasure to all senses. If mom and dad enjoy gardening but developed certain difficulties bending, consider making certain changes to the garden set up.

older parents

 The best way to garden when you are older is to use vertical planting to make garden beds accessible for planting and harvesting, so try using wall and trellis spaces. Raise beds to avoid bending and stooping.

Provide retractable hanging baskets, wheelbarrows and containers on castors to l planting to make garden beds accessible for planting and harvesting, so try using wall and trellis spaces. Raise beds to avoid bending and stooping.

Make suitable movable and elevated garden beds.

Just imagine how thrilled your parents will be!

And who knows, maybe the financial burden of assisted living or nursing home could be avoided as well.

My two cents advice on how to talk about home modifications

I personally find that the hardest part is to convince my older parents to make changes in their familiar and dysfunctional environment.

Let’s face it, the older we get the less we like changes and the mess of the renovation.

 So how do you approach the issue of aging and then transition to a home modification topic?

“Mom, you are not getting any younger”, will not get you too far. People value their independence the most, and thoughts of disability and dependency on children are depressing.

How do you talk to mom without causing problems?

A good way to talk is through stories about other people and how certain home changes made their lives easier.

You get the idea.

 The trick is to collect all the information so that you could “sell” your idea about home modifications to your older parent.

In our next issue we will talk about each modification Stay at Home project in more detail, give you more information and helpful references.

We love your questions and want to hear about your experiences. Please post your comments right here below and we will chat soon!

P.S. If you know someone who has an older parent and would benefit from this post, please do not forget to share.

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  1. I completely agree with this article, Our parents are getting older by the day and I really want to help keep them safe around the house. I think that little things like changing the light in dark area`s is a great start to helping them feel safe around the house and helping me feel secure when I`m not around them.

  2. I personally went through this but not with my parents, it was with a dear friend of mine. We use to be old childhood friends and well she needs to start realizing that the things she could do when we were kids, is not the same anymore. I really dont like telling her that she can`t do specific things but some stuff is just not safe for a woman that age. Any tips on telling someone to not do something because of there age without hurting there feelings?

    • You can tell her stories about other people, something you saw on TV about a woman …and then describe a situation which is similar. Then you wait, and do not rush. Let your friend ask you questions about how that woman managed to stay at her home and be safe and independent. Independence is the key to this conversation. May be even come back to that subject a couple of times. Hope this helps.

  3. Ive been worried about my mother for a while now, she has been doing a lot around the house and I get worried that she is going to over do it once in a while. I guess this fear is becoming more and more each day so finding this article really helped me out.

    • Thank you for your comment, Austin. If there is one thing you can do to help your mom stay safe at home and age at home-that would be lighting, such as high heads with dimmers and a swing arm bed lamps.

  4. I have a dear friend to me, who is having problems like this at home. As of right now, I cant really help her out but I can just support her in the choices she makes when doing work around the house or when moving around the house. But I want to share this article with her because I think she will realize a lot from it. This should help a great deal.

  5. I really found the last step to this article really interesting because I never really thought about that side of things. When my folks go outside I never really worried about it until I went ahead and read the last step of this. I think putting some step lights on the porch outside will really help me feel comfortable letting them go out in our back yard. Thank you.

  6. Talking to my loves ones is going to be the problem, I think that they will have a problem understanding because of the fact that they have this motivate like no kind. When I tell them about the little changes I want to make towards the house they might take it offensively …

  7. @Alexis
    The best way to tell them about these types of things is exactly what this article is saying. I Approached the topic to my older ones and they understand right away. They are worried about themselves just as much as you are worried about them.

  8. I use to take care of older parents for a living. I got out of the business because of personal reasons but all of these tips that are explained with detail is exactly what we advise others to do if they dont bring there older parents in. As long as you care for your loved ones, you will save a great amount.

  9. Marina – these are great suggestions! My brother owns an adult care facility and updated the homes with many of the suggestions you have here. I love the tip about the lighting and how to figure how much is needed for aging eyes! I will link this article as a reference from their site – this is very valuable information. Thanks for sharing! Dawn

    • Thank you very much, Dawn. For adult care facility it is even more important because the clients have to feel better than at home and lighting is one of those things to accomplish a sense of well being. Stay tuned, I have much more on the subject.

  10. Pingback: Why Great Task Lighting Makes "A" List for Dad’s Gift Ideas • Design Ideas New Jersey

  11. I grew up with my grandparents, and yes dealing with older people is difficult. I can relate with the story here. Our love for them makes us hesitant to change the way they are used to. But the problem is they are not anymore comfortable with the home settings like before. And yet they keep on insisting on their old ways. Thanks for your advice. Maybe I should try to use your approach when talking to both of them. And by the way, your DIY tips are really great. I’ll do that at home. Not to mention that I won’t be spending for someone to do that for me. Thank you.

  12. Most people worry about getting older and I am one of them. I fear getting old and living alone in a home which doesn’t really ease my fear or loneliness. I think most of us are scared how we’ll manages in our homes when we get older. But after reading this article, I realized that the key is to be ready. To prepare your home to accommodate you as you grow older. This is really a helpful article which gave me a great insight. I’d like to apply the tips you taught in your blog to my in law’s home. This can really help her be comfortable in her home!

  13. Very nice post. I would like to thank you for this very useful content.
    My sister and I had a plan for our aging parents. To move them from a nursing home to our house. To do that, we came up with a plan, to make things better for all of us. This past year, as both of them reached their 80th birthdays, their living situation grew harder. Dad has taken a few spills while mom’s getting too forgetful.
    I like the way to laid out the different helpful tips that we can do for our home, to keep our aging parents safe all the time. Thank you so much

  14. Very often, family members can feel guilt about placing loved ones especially the elder ones in an uncomfortable place. If a family member feels guilt, they should remember these tips to benefit their elderly parent’s health and well-being. We are all involved in the major changes in an elderly person’s life. It is important to fully understand the changes involved while helping your parents feel comfortable as they chose to stay in their home.

  15. Sad but true – home modifications for the elderly is something that we often take for granted. Thanks for your tips!

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