Essential Home Modifications For The Elderly Living at Home
The home is a place of comfort and safety, but only if it serves your specific needs. As we age, our bodies change, so what was once suitable eventually becomes a potential hazard. But this shouldn't mean that the only option is to sell up and move somewhere else. By instinct, we design our homes for comfort, so as our needs change with time, so should the layout.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (UK), more accidents happen at home than anywhere else, and falls are the most common household injury.
Whether you’re considering modifying your own house into a lifelong home or weighing up the options for elderly relatives, many simple DIY solutions (with items freely available from hardware stores) can help us stay in our homes for as long as we need to.
The bathroom is the most likely place to slip or fall because of the proliferation of moisture in the air and potentially slippery surfaces to be found on floors. Condensation can collect on wall tiles, and drip down onto the floor, even making carpets slippery. Place non-skid rubber mats on the bathroom floor to prevent accidental falls.
You could consider installing a shower seat, which offers stability and a place to rest if standing for long periods is a problem.
Installing permanent wall grab-bars are another solution that will increase safe movement around the bathroom. Grab-bars take the pressure away from weak knees and other joints when sitting down and getting up from the toilet, and provide support when walking on a wet or dry floor.
Grab-bars aren’t just suitable for the bathroom, of course. They can be installed next to a favorite armchair or in the dining room to make getting in and out of a chair more comfortable.
The living room
They might make the place look homely, but rugs can be a severe trip-hazard. They’re particularly dangerous on wooden floors unless they firmly affixed. For somebody a little unsure of their footing, a rug can cause a broken bone or worse. For cane or frame users, rugs are one of the most common causes of injury.
If that favorite rug absolutely has to stay, then consider firmly adhering the rug to the floor with double-sided tape or specialist rug grippers. Make sure that all edges and corners are securely fixed down.
A cluttered room can be a dangerous place. Sofas with concealed feet are potential trip hazards. Consider re-arranging the furniture to ensure that pathways to doors and windows are clear.
Navigating around the house should be made as safe as possible, so it might be time to get rid of that foot-stool that was never used!
Wherever there’s a single step up or down from one room to another, it’s easy to forget that it’s there. Threshold ramps provide a no-step entry, preventing the possibility of accidental tripping.
LED stair lights, illuminate each stair tread and look uber-modern. They’re cheap to run, and are a stylish feature, as well as a practical solution.
Carpeted stairs are homely, but as the carpet ages, it can grow slippery. Uncarpeted stairs are equally hazardous. Non-slip tape can be applied to wooden or carpeted stairs, helping the user gain better traction, preventing the possibility of falls by slipping.
Installing hand-rails on both sides of the stairway can help an infirm person better tackle the steps.
Vision often degrades a little over the years, so it’s essential to arrange suitable lighting. “Energy-saving” bulbs may be good for the electricity bill, but they take too long to get to full illumination, by which time there could have been a fall.
Modern LED bulbs are a great way to ensure powerful, instant light as you enter a room.
Fiddly light switches can become difficult to control. They can be replaced with large, rocker switches that are easier to operate. Hardware stores offer stock on a broad array of light switches. It is essential though to get a qualified electrician to swap them over for you.
Doorknobs and faucets
Round doorknobs can be difficult to grip, especially if they open a door with a rotary action. Lever-door handles are much more comfortable to operate and are safer if you have your hands full.
Faucets can be difficult to operate for those with reduced mobility in arms or hands. A simple change to lever-faucets can make life much more comfortable and can prevent accidental spillages and floods, that become slip hazards.
The kitchen is full of hazards. The most useful practical thing you can do to increase kitchen safety is to ensure that everything is at an easy-reach level. Grab-bars can help improve stability around cooking areas and kettles, while making sure that there is no need to use ladders to reach plates and pans are both good ways to keep the kitchen a hazard-free environment.
Consider the high-tech approach - WiFi lighting is compatible with home assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, which responds to verbal commands. You can verbally operate the lighting, the heating, switch on the boiler, switch radio stations and even order a taxi.
More permanent solutions
If you need to make your entire home more accessible, it might be worth considering having a modular ramp built at the main entrance to your property. And for stairs, installing a stair lift is a good solution. These solutions certainly aren’t quick fixes, but they can add quality of life to someone who finds steps and stairs difficult.
Whatever the problem, there’s most likely a cheap, easily installed solution. With some thought and consideration, you can transform a potentially dangerous house, into a comfortable lifetime home.
Aaron Green is a keen DIYer and family man. Sharing his knowledge and helping others is one of his passions. You can find more of Aaron’s writing at www.essentialhomeandgarden.com