Making Your Home Work for You
As we get older, many of our homes no longer work as well for us. But most of us want to remain in the homes we love.
Fortunately, there are many solutions. There are trained experts in home modification all over the country. There are many new tools to specifically address the issues of aging.
Home Advisor has joined with the National Aging in Place Council to create a guide to making your home work for you. Here you will find: the most common living and accessibility problems people face as they age available solutions to those problems; people in your community who can solve the problems for you.
Most Common Problems as You Age in Your Home
At some point, climbing steps—both outside and inside the house—becomes too difficult for almost all of us. The most frequent request from older adults is a step-free home. In many homes, the need to use the steps can be eliminated or at least minimized.
- Replacing outdoor steps with ramps.
- Installing an elevator or stair lift
- Converting first floor room into a master bedroom
- Converting a first floor closet into a bathroom
- Adding a shower to a powder room
Fall are on of the largest concerns of aging adults and their children. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 2.5 million people are treated for falls each year. One in five falls cause serious injury to bones (such as broken hips) or head injury.
Falls can be caused by different factors: weakness in our legs, improper mixture of pharmaceutical drugs, vision problems, early stages of disorientation or dementia, unaccommodating arrangement of a home.
To prevent falls, we need to exercise to build strength in our lower body, make sure we have proper eyewear, have a pharmaceutical evaluation of drugs we take and eliminate risks in the arrangement of our homes.
Solutions to eliminating risks in homes include:
- Safe floors and elimination of throw rugs or other coverings that move.
- Grab bars in bathrooms, in showers and along side toilets.
- Bathtubs and showers with floor level entry
- Rails on both sides of stairs and, where needed, along walls.
- Daylight quality lighting
Access to Help
As we age, many of us live alone. The greatest fear of living alone is finding ourselves in an emergency situation and not having immediate access to help.
- Medical alert or PERS (Personal Emergency Response systems), which are pendants with a button to contact a response operation.
- In-home sensory systems, some now utilizing GPS, that trace our behavioral routines and alert a response operation when needed.
- Home phones and smart phones, some emergency buttons that directly contact a response operation, others with large lettering and numbers to assist those with sight issues.
- Telehealth systems, accessible on computers, for health monitoring and video consultations with doctors and nurses.
We know what we like to eat. Most of us continue to want to prepare our own meals for as long as we can. But the kitchen can be an inconvenient and dangerous place. Movements in a kitchen (bending over, turning) can lead to falls. A drift in attention can lead to burns. And we may reach a point where simply standing at a counter to prepare food is too strenuous of a chore.
- Soft flooring that will not punish you if you fall on it.
- Sit down counters, where you can prepare food from a chair or a stool.
- Stove burner covers that make touching a hot area much less likely.
- Islands on wheels, which can be moved to the side when not in use and make the path from appliances to counters or in between appliances shorter and more easily navigable.
Accommodating In-home Care
Health, cognitive and mobility issues often require either short-term or longer term attention from care providers. But many of us consider our homes a bastion of privacy. Having a virtual stranger there, either part time or full time, makes us uncomfortable. And yet, we need them there.
- Creating a comfortable private guest room for our caregivers.
- Turning a half bath into a full bath.
Good sleep is a requisite for good health, at any age. But issues of aging can make it difficult for us to get a good night of rest on a regular basis. Snoring is a common problem that can be caused by respiratory issues or swelling of the neck due to a gain in weight. Health issues can include acid reflux, which can be controlled by lying on an angle. Restlessness in bed can lead to falling out of bed. And sometimes the issue is just plain finding a comfortable sleep position.
- Adjustable beds which permit you to change your sleep angle
- Easily moveable bed rails
- Convert a room into a second master bedroom for your housemate
Many health issues of aging require medications. But as we face cognitive and mobility issues, it sometimes becomes difficult to maintain your medication regimen on a daily basis. We can forget what we have taken. Or we sometimes simply forget to take our medications all together.
- Controlled pill dispensers, which arrange pills according to your daily requirements and indicate when and if you take them.
- Telehealth programs, smart phone apps which remind you of your daily requirements.
Software programs, that keep track of your medication schedule.