Some tips to get you started:
1. Make basic residence modifications.
Use universal design principles to make sure the home is comfortable and safe for people of all ages and abilities. Make all changes easily adaptable, as needs and capabilities change over time. A safe home doesn’t have to be unattractive – modifications can be beautiful and stylish. If you hire an entrepreneur, find one who has a proven track record in this area. You can search for a contractor who has the CAPS designation in the directory of the National Association of Home Builders. Also consider the AARP HomeFit Guide and HomeFit augmented reality app walk around the house and determine what changes are needed.
Consider the following improvements:
- No step Entrance. This makes it easier to enter the house for those who use wheelchairs and walkers, and makes it easier to carry medical supplies, groceries and suitcases inside. If this is not possible, consider a full threshold or ramp, or an elevator.
- First floor bedroom and bathroom Where a elevator. Stairs can become difficult and dangerous. If you are unable to create a bedroom / bathroom on the first floor, you might consider an elevator in the house.
- Bathroom to catch bars and a raised toilet seat. Secure the bathroom and accessible is a top priority. A shower chair can also be useful, and if possible a rimless shower is preferable.
- Laundry to same ground like bedroom bathroom. If the laundry room is in the basement, it may be time to create one upstairs.
- Large doors and rooms. I had staggered door hinges installed, leaving just enough extra room for a walker or wheelchair to pass.
- Accessible electrical outlets, controls, buttons and switches. Light switches, thermostats, faucets, cabinets and door handles can be lowered and outlets raised for easy access from a seated or standing position.
- Variable counter Heights. In the kitchen and bathroom, “the counter height may be more comfortable for some people to stand up or use a stool without bending over and straining their backs,” but others may need to sit on. a chair or wheelchair.
- Easy to use handles and door handles. Lever handles are the easiest for arthritic hands.
- To augment lighting. Dark areas can cause falls.
2. Keep security a High priority.
Every year, 1 in 4 Americans over 65 fall, so fall prevention is key. Many of the modifications listed above help prevent this type of accident. And sometimes a very simple setting can help. For example, I took the wheels off my dad’s chair so it wouldn’t move when he got up. We have a living room below and a visiting friend fell off the edge and broke her ribs. To prevent this from happening again, I lined up the furniture along the edges so mum and dad couldn’t slip away.
Keeping a loved one from getting lost is also critical. Monitors and alerts can be of great help when a person has dementia. I placed a motion detector in the hallway, so I was alerted if dad, who had Alzheimer’s disease, passed by. In addition, I placed a floor mat with an alarm next to his bed. For mom, I had alarm cushions for the bed and the chair. Even a simple door alarm, found at your local hardware store, can give you peace of mind. These alarms can also help prevent falls if your loved one is not safe walking around the house alone.
Medical equipment and mobility aids, including canes, walkers, wheelchairs and shower chairs, are often essential to prevent falls. Lifts, ramps, and wheelchair lifts can also help.
3. Healthcare devices and apps are rapidly changing home care.
Try to use technology in these ways:
- Medical alert systems (or personal emergency response systems). A wide variety of options are available, including GPS tracking and automatic fall detection.
- Monitors, alerts and alarms. Alerts include motion detectors, video cameras and audio monitors, floor mat and bed cushion alarms, door alarms, stove burner alerts, and smart medication organizers / dispensers. Integrated systems are available which combine all of these options. A smart home and security system can be synchronized so you can lock and unlock doors, check and change the temperature in a loved one’s home, monitor who comes in and out, and even remotely raise or lower blinds .
- Health monitoring tools. Apps and devices that track blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, nutrition, and other health issues are readily available, and some can send reports to your loved one’s doctors.
- Apps can facilitate communication between members of your healthcare team, create medication lists, and provide guidance or resources for care. There are also apps to set up transportation and find paid caregivers.
- Connections. Technology that helps fight isolation at home makes it easier for your loved one to visit friends and family through video chat and smart speakers.
4. Look for home services.
Investigate any help that may be available through your regional agency on aging, the Department of Veterans Affairs or other community organizations. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and music therapy can be provided at home. Housekeeping, housework and meal delivery are often the first supports people need as they age. Other services useful for home care include mobile doctors, x-rays and laboratory tests, and dialysis; home health aides can help with “activities” such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. If your loved one is a veteran, learn about primary home services and home health services from the VA.
5. Do your homework when hire paid nursing aides.
It is wonderful to have help, and there are many caring and dedicated people ready to provide it. But, of course, there are others that are not so reliable. Mom had several falls due to paid, untrained caregivers, and one of them stole her jewelry. When hiring caregivers, be sure to check background and get references, and carefully monitor their work. Stop – preferably at unexpected times – to check to see if professionals or volunteers are coming to the house.
As your loved one’s needs change, you can creatively increase support around the home. Dad lived with me for six years; he died, at the age of 94, in his own bed, surrounded by his daughters, with the support of palliative care, provided by V A. I am so grateful that I was able to follow his wishes and take care of him at home. Looking back, although it was difficult, I have no regrets, and overall it was an extremely rewarding experience.