What does it mean for you if your older parents stay safe at home? If you are like me, sandwitched between children, older parents and work, it means quite a lot! The last thing anyone wants is lost independence when someone falls and breaks a hip or a leg.
You might have heard about the home modification industry – Aging in Place. It is focussed on finding home design solutions so that mom and dad stay at home of their choice as long as possible without going through the monstrous expense of the assisted living or a nursing home.
The good news is that finding solutions for your older parents to be safer at home can be easier than you expect.
Here are some suggestions for several weekend projects.
If there is only one thing you can do, change 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 if your parents are in their fifties, sixties and seventies make sure that the lighting in their home is much brighter than yours. And here is why:
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. They do not want to read if there is too much glare. They are not comfortable cooking and feel tired quickly if there is low contrast between surfaces.
These are the things you can do. Please note that some of them are 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 LEDs to save energy cost.
- Make sure that hallways, stairs, and bathrooms are lit especially well.
- Buy additional light fixture that are concealed or have shades instead of exposed lamps.
- Make sure that all the lighting is on dimmers.
- Buy a special age friendly reading lamp by Holtkotter specifically designed for an aging eye.
2. Replace doorknobs into 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 knob, put a thick sock on your hand and then try to operate it. Feels uncomfortable? Lever-style handles work better for someone with less finger flexibility.
- Substitute round knobs with door lever handles.
- Install electronic locks that can be opened with a proximity card or swipe card.
As reported they are #1 cause of accidents of people over 65. Over 1/3 are caused by a fall in elderly every year. The scary part is that many people affected by the falls lose independence and/or do not return to their previous lifestyle. Tile remains the top product used for flooring. Textured finishes for tile and grout lines create a slip-resistant surface in the bath.
- Polished marble tile, one of the most dangerous products used in the bath because it is slippery when the surface is wet. If you crave that beautiful marble tile install a smaller size
4. Rearrange furniture
- 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.
- Put a desk in the room with the nice view of the yard
- Substitute a low seating chair with a 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.
- Think about vertical garden to make garden beds accessible for planting and harvesting, so try using wall and trellis.
- Raise beds to avoid bending and stooping.
- Provide retractable hanging baskets, wheelbarrows and containers on castors.
- Make suitable movable and elevated garden beds.
- Use premade wall pocket garden, such as the one above.
How to talk about home modifications
I find that it is the hardest part 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?
Don’t do this:
“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.
A good way to talk is through stories about other people and how certain home changes made their lives easier. The trick is to collect all the information so that you could “sell” your idea about home modifications to your older parent.
P.S. If you know someone who has an older parent and would benefit from this post, please do not forget to share.