The Complete Guide to Home Adjustments for Independent Living

6047376560 6226027f74 q The Complete Guide to Home Adjustments for Independent LivingAs you begin to get older, you have to start thinking about how you will manage if it becomes harder for you to look after yourself. Naturally, most people want to stay as independent as they can for as long as they can. For some, it can make more sense to move into assisted living, or even into a care home. But living independently at home is possible for many. One of the biggest obstacles to independent living is the layout and structure of people’s houses. They’re often not designed for people who have problems with mobility, such as wheelchair users or people with arthritis.

Day-to-day tasks such as getting in the bath or shower, going up and down stairs or even going through doorways can become a struggle. But with the right modifications and tools in your home, independent living can become a reality. Instead of leaving your home to move somewhere designed with limited mobility in mind, stay in your home and make improvements. You can adjust everything from your bath to your armchairs. And with some other handy little tools and gadgets, you can do everything for yourself.

Photo by Gary Knight

Widening Doorways

One of the greatest barriers to staying in a home that isn’t set up for people with mobility issues is the amount of space to move around. When you start to slow down and need help getting around, you can find that your home doesn’t allow movement for more than a person on their own. If you need to use a walking frame, crutches or a wheelchair, doorframes and room layouts can turn out to be a bit of a tight squeeze. You might even be having trouble with spacial awareness and need a bit more room to move about. Wheelchairs can be especially difficult. Although they often fit through the door, there isn’t always enough room for your hands, which is a disaster if you prefer to push yourself. You don’t want to have to have someone help you every time you want to go through the door. What you can do is have your doorways widened. Although this sounds like a big task, it’s easy and quick.

Kitchen Remodeling

Accessibility is extremely important in the kitchen. When you’re working with hot pans and sharp knives, you don’t want to be struggling to reach the surfaces or move around. If you’re a wheelchair user, you can have countertops, and other surfaces lowered. Doing so makes it easy for you to prepare food, do the dishes and other kitchen tasks. Other barriers you could change or remove include having an island in the middle of the kitchen or a layout that’s too compact. Cooking is one of the main things a lot of people feel helps them to maintain their independence and dignity. It helps them feel that they can provide for themselves. To keep you cooking longer, look into adjustments you can make to your kitchen.

Stairlifts for Independent Living

Getting up the stairs can be a struggle for even the most spritely of people. Even in their younger days, a lot of people find themselves out of puff from just walking up and down the stairs a few times. Later, the climbing the stairs can begin to feel like climbing Mount Everest. One of the most popular pieces of home medical equipment is the stairlift. Installing a stairlift makes getting up and down the stairs as easy as pie. Take your freedom back by adding a stairlift to your home and making the stairs a delight and not a struggle. Just sit back and relax as the stairlift does its work.

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Photo by Creative Bathroom Designs

Bathroom Remodeling

The bathroom might be the most important room when it comes to maintaining your independence and dignity. You want to be able to manage alone for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to make your bathroom fit around you. There are lots of modifications you can do in your bathroom to make bathing, showering and using the toilet much easier. One of the simplest things to put in is grab rails. Whether you want to alter your bath, shower or toilet, putting handrails in will help you to feel more secure and stable when you’re using the bathroom. If you want to go further, you can change your bathroom suite itself. The risk of slipping in the bath or shower is one that worries a lot of people. But you can relieve your worry with a walk-in tub, a roll-in shower for wheelchair users or a tub-to-shower conversion.

Walk in tubs remove the need to try and climb in and out of the bath. You simply open the door, walk in and fill the tub (remembering to shut the door!) Most come with seats to lower yourself onto, which you can combine with a handrail. You can modify your shower by installing rails, as well as a seat. Often standing for prolonged amounts of time in the shower can be hard, but you don’t have to worry with a modified shower.

Handy Tools and Gadgets

As well as making big and small changes to your home, you can use all kinds of tools and gadgets to help you regain or maintain your freedom at home. From gardening tools to simple pick-up tools, there are lots of things that can help you do everyday tasks. Pick-up tools are great to help you grab things without bending down and you can get tools to help you with everything from turning keys to opening doors. If you have low vision or hearing, lots of aids can help you by providing speech options and sound amplifiers. And of course, there’s the fun things. You shouldn’t have to stop gardening, reading or exercising because you’re getting older. There are lots of tools to help you in the garden, lights and magnifiers to help you read and even devices to help you exercise gently.

Stay in control of your life by fitting your home around you, instead of moving somewhere new. You can keep your independence and your dignity, without having to sacrifice your home or privacy.

Improve Home Access For Seniors – Tune Up Your Doors

shutterstock 142445545 150x150 Improve Home Access For Seniors   Tune Up Your DoorsAre the doors in your home sticky, narrow or just plain unwieldy? For most of us, this can be a big annoyance. However, for seniors, it can be a significant impediment to mobility in the home and overall home access for seniors.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve the situation and make daily life a little easier.

Here are some ideas:

Door Knobs – Consider replacing door knobs with door levers. These are simply easier for seniors to open than a traditional round door knob. Internal door hardware is affordable and relatively easy to replace. Entry door locksets are more expensive, but won’t necessarily break the bank if you shop around.

Misaligned Doors – When doors are out of alignment, they can rub on the frame and become difficult to open and close. There are a few quick tricks you can try before you resort to re-framing the door.

  • If the problem is very minor, you can sometimes just sand the edge of the door that is rubbing. This is permanent and is not recommended if the problem is seasonal or if too much material must be removed.
  • Use shims to move the upper or lower hinge out from the door frame slightly. While you may be able to use cardboard or washers to accomplish this, it’s probably better to purchase door shims that are specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Another trick is to slightly bend one or both of the door hinge knuckles. Crescent wrenches are frequently used for this, but there are now knuckle bender tools to make it easier.

Narrow Doorways – Some doorways are too narrow to provide access for a walker or wheelchair. You have a few options:

  • ‘Swing clear’ hinges are a great way to improve access. As the name implies, these hinges allow the door to swing completely out of the door opening. In some cases, this can add a couple inches of badly needed clearance.
  • If you don’t need to close that particular door, consider removing the door and hinge altogether. You can also remove the innermost strip of trim that functions as a door stop. If the doorway needs to be even wider, you can try removing the entire door frame and trimming out the opening with thin sheet-rock.
  • Depending on the location in your home and the wall framing surrounding the door, you may be able to replace the existing door with a wider pre-hung door. While this may not be a DIY job, a good contractor can probably do it for a reasonable price.

Garage Doors – Not only can garage doors be difficult to open and close, they can be downright hazardous for some seniors. While most problems with garage doors can be easily fixed, it is recommended that you hire a licensed contractor for significant improvements. Garage door springs are dangerous to work with and some municipalities may even require building permits.

  • If you have a slab garage door, check into getting a roll-up door. These should be much safer and easier for seniors to manage.
  • Remove dirt and debris from the garage door and the areas around it.
  • Lubricate your door hardware. If you are unsure of the best type, look for a lubricant specifically labeled for garage door hardware.
  • Replace your garage door springs. If the springs are old, they may not be functioning as well as they should. They could also be dangerous in the event of a failure.
  • If you don’t have one already, consider purchasing an automatic garage door opener. The quality of these continues to improve and they are more affordable than ever.

Sliding Doors – Sliding doors are inherently more difficult to open than swinging doors and can be even more of a challenge for seniors. These generally require more ongoing maintenance to function smoothly.

  • Clean out the tracks regularly.
  • Lubricate moving parts.
  • Although it can be tricky, many sliding doors have screws to adjust alignment. If needed, replacement parts are generally available as well.
  • Consider replacing a sliding door with a pair of swinging French doors. Because the sliding door opening is typically wide, replacement with French doors is generally easier than many other installations.

Keyless Entry Systems – Some seniors have difficulties when using keys. Door locks with combination buttons and remote key fobs are now available. Some of these can even be activated by other remote devices such as cell phones or security systems.

While these are all great improvements for the doors themselves, don’t forget to address the lighting near your doorways. For example, motion detectors can automatically turn on the lights when approaching the door. This will free up both hands for opening the door, carrying groceries or even stability. Now all you need is a friendly welcome mat!

7 Options For Senior Friendly Bathrooms

canstockphoto3056186 150x150 7 Options For Senior Friendly BathroomsFor the elderly, using the bathroom effectively – whether it is the toilet, faucets, or the shower and bathtub – can be difficult. For people who have lost mobility and strength, standing in a shower for a long time isn’t possible, and getting in and out of a bathtub is a risky proposition.

Thankfully there has been progress in bathroom remodeling geared towards helping seniors navigate the bathroom with ease. The remodeling covers a wide range, from something as simple as a sprayer attachment that allows for the person to sit while bathing, to curbless showers that remove the need to step up for access. These changes can help the elderly be more independent in the bathroom, and they also help the elderly caregiver give better care to their loved one.

Options For Senior Friendly Bathrooms:

1. Install lever faucets. Having a lever faucet gets rid of the twisting and turning that can be difficult for the elderly. There are hundreds of different styles to choose from, including foot operated faucets. Installing a new faucet isn’t as difficult as it once was, but anytime you’re dealing with plumbing, it is good to at least talk with a professional before making the change yourself.

2. Get a sprayer attachment for your shower-head. A shower-head that you can detach and hold in your hand makes bathing really easy. It furthermore eliminates the need to stand while showering, certainly a bonus for those who have problems standing for long periods. Being able to sit and shower also means more independence for the elderly.

3. Install grab bars and rails. This is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to make your bathroom more elderly-friendly. Installing grab bars and rails in the shower, bathtub and near the toilet makes bathing and using the toilet easier not only for the elderly person, but for the caregiver as well. The grab bars and rails can be installed yourself or you can hire someone to do the work.

4. Raise the height of the toilet. Simply raising the toilet’s height as little as three inches can make all the difference for seniors. There are a lot of options for raising the height of the toilet. You can simply raise the height of your existing toilet with a thick toilet seat, or you can replace your old toilet with a “Comfort Height” toilet. Once again, this can be a DIY project, or a project where you call a plumber.

5. Thick rugs for cushioning. This simple and easy addition to the bathroom is for the elderly caregivers that are spending time on their knees bathing someone. Placing a well-padded rug or pillow under your knees can keep your knees from hurting, making the bathing process less of a chore.

6. Non-slip bath mats and rugs. This is another easy way to prevent falls in the bathroom. Placing a non-slip mat in the shower prevents the senior from falling while showering and a non-slip rug on the floor outside the shower prevents any slipping once the senior is out of the shower. Non-slip tape is a lower cost option for shower pans and tub bottoms.

7. Curbless showers and Walk-in bathtubs. For the seniors that can’t lift their legs, putting in a curbless shower can be a lifesaver. A curbless shower can make the transition from wheelchair to shower seat simple and easy for the senior and the caregiver. Walk-in bath tubs are another popular option, as they are much easier to access than traditional tubs and most have a built in seat as well. There are many different options for installing a curbless shower or a walk-in bathtub. You can buy and have installed a pre-fabricated unit, or you can do it yourself. The advantage to having a new unit installed is that they are specifically designed for senior care.

There are twin goals to redoing your bathroom: the first is to increase the independence of your loved one, and the second is to make life easier for you the caregiver.

What changes to your bathroom have you made? What is the most cost-effective way to change your bathroom to suit the elderly?

Creating a Senior Friendly Kitchen

5208056054 6ea68edf77 Creating a Senior Friendly KitchenIt can be hard to accept the way our bodies change as we get older. Although this varies from person to person, one thing that most seniors have in common is the desire to maintain their independence and the ability to pursue the activities that they love as long as possible. If you have a handicapped or elderly relative living in your home, there are steps you can take to make this easier for them.

In particular, not only do your loved ones want to continue to care for themselves, they also want to feel that they are helping take care of others. One place that this can happen is the kitchen. A good home-cooked dinner often provides the foundation for family interaction and communication. Even something less elaborate like assembling pre-prepared meals or re-heating leftovers can make seniors feel like they are contributing to the general welfare of the household.

When taking on tasks in the kitchen, most seniors face a range of physical challenges. These include:

  • Reduced mobility

  • Reduced flexibility, meaning difficulty reaching and bending

  • Reduced stamina and balance problems

  • General physical weakness and other symptoms of physical decline

Here are some suggestions for creating a senior friendly kitchen, and making the kitchen a safe environment for your loved ones:

1. Challenges Relating to Mobility

Make sure that important areas of the kitchen are accessible to seniors. Create a “working triangle” that will allow seniors to move through the space comfortably. To ensure that seniors can access important storage areas like kitchen cabinets and pantries, as well as major appliances, find a construction company that focuses on remodeling and retrofitting areas inside the home to make them ADA compliant.

Additionally, for seniors with disabilities — in particular those who use wheelchairs — major appliance manufacturers like General Electric sell ADA-compliant refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers. Making changes to improve ease of access can make using the kitchen more comfortable not only for your older relatives, but for everyone else in the household as well.

2. Challenges Relating to Reduced Flexibility

Because seniors have difficulty both reaching high and bending low, store important items on the shelves in the kitchen cabinets and pantry that are between shoulder and knee level. Smaller and lighter containers or objects (particularly those made of plastic) can go higher, while heavier ones, particularly those made of glass or ceramic, should be placed lower down.

Other strategies to improve accessibility include using pull-down shelves, or even open shelving and eliminating doors entirely. Microwaves should go on counters so that they are easy to reach, with sufficient space for hot food to be put down right away once it is finished cooking.

3. Challenges Relating to Reduced Stamina

It is also difficult for seniors to stand for long periods of time. This is both because seniors grow tired more quickly and because their legs and feet are not as easily able to handle the strain. Make sure that countertops and other surfaces are low enough that seniors can perform tasks like chopping from a seated position.

4. Other Physical Challenges

Seniors need an appropriate level of visibility to ensure that they don’t trip or bump into cabinet doors or appliances while moving around the kitchen. Make sure the kitchen is evenly and brightly lit. In addition, because many seniors have hearing issues, any timers or smoke/fire alarms should be set at a frequency and volume that seniors can hear. Electric can openers and special faucets/cabinet hardware/handles can help seniors with arthritis. Because many seniors have strength issues, cabinet hardware that can be pulled is preferable to that requiring twisting.

Are there other challenges that you have confronted when trying to make your kitchen accessible to older relatives? What steps have you taken to deal with them?