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.
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.
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.