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How to Make Your Home Comfortable and Safe for an Aging Relative

Elderly woman walking with a walker
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If you have an aging senior who is better suited staying at home, then the chances are that you will have to make some modifications to keep them safe and comfortable. What may seem simple to you— a younger relative –might be difficult and maybe painful for your elder. Climbing the stairs is no longer a small task for seniors; getting into the shower is now challenging; and the light in a room can prove to be hurtful. With all this in mind, to have your senior age in place, and do so comfortably, you will need to make some home improvements to keep him/her safe and comfortable. Here are some tips that you may find useful.

Ensure a Main Floor Bedroom

Can you remember a time when climbing stairs wasn’t a nuisance? …Neither can I. Now imagine that being maybe 10 times a nuisance for your older relative with diminished joints and muscles. The stairs in your home can make life a living hell for your aging senior. So, how do we tackle this? Eliminate the need for your elder to use the stairs at all. The first thing you’d want to do is give your senior a main floor bedroom. He won’t need to climb up and down the stairs to get some tea or coffee. When he leaves his room, he should have access to the kitchen, the living room and the exit door without destroying his knees and back any further.

Add Ramps Where Necessary

Two seniors using a ramp to walk from house
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If your senior is wheelchair bound, then adding ramps should be almost paramount. This home improvement is more for you and whoever will be helping your senior around. Pushing and pulling a wheelchair up and down stairs can be taxing and dangerous for all those involved. You might end up with more people reliant on wheelchairs than you want because lifting a wheelchair can place some serious pressure on the joints and muscles. Installing ramps can make the home more accessible for your senior and whomever needs to help him around.

Beyond being wheelchair bound, a ramp is good to alleviate the stress of walking up and down stairs or steps. They are not just for wheelchair bound seniors, or seniors who need other kinds of support to get around. You should consider getting a ramp for your senior even if they don't need assistance from a chair, walker or cane.

Install Stair Rails

If you lack the option of a main floor bedroom, then additional stair rails would be extremely useful. Why? Research indicates that the rate of injuries and death by a fall is rising. Don’t be too scared. Adding rails make it easier to climb up and down the stairs and reduces the chances of an accident. The availability of rails, whether in the house or simply on steps that may be at the entrance of the house offer a sense of safety. The hand rails are a general safety measure. So, whether or not you have a main level bedroom for your senior, you might want to consider installing stair rails.

Make Your Showers Walk-In

This option may not be as inexpensive as you would like, but it will be worth the investment. Again, your senior is likely struggling with muscle and joint weakness. Guess what other basic human activity becomes challenging? You guessed it! Getting into the shower is not as easy anymore. Therefore, it would make sense to install walk-in showers. Ideally, you’d install a shower bench or seat as well. This may eliminate the need to bend over while in the shower. Remember, we are trying to make living at home as comfortable and safe as possible for your senior. Whatever other small modifications you think might help, do not shy away from it. Get creative.

Add a Home Stair Lift

Old man smiling while using stair lift
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Is your senior wheelchair-bound and/or is not living on the main floor, then you would want to install a stair lift. The stair lift is added to the staircase of a home and used to raise someone from the bottom of the stairs to the top and back down. This form of transport not only makes your home more accessible, but it also ensures your senior’s safety. This will improve the quality of life of your senior because it makes getting around the house much easier.

Change the Lighting

Lighting always seems so minuscule compared to everything else, but do not downplay its significance. Science suggests that, like everything else, elderly people’s capacity for vision diminishes. Their pupils get smaller and their number of rods (photo-receptors) decreases. As a result, you need to monitor the kinds of light and the severity of the lighting that your senior is exposed to. Generally, seniors need access to more light. If possible, you want to add a dimmer that allows your senior to adjust the brightest of the light. While increasing the amount of light available to your senior, be careful to prevent the light from glaring. This is damaging to seniors.

There are many ways that we can make aging in place better for you and your senior. Don't be afraid to get creative. Some changes are smaller and less expensive than others. Lighting, in general seems like a smaller adjustment than installing a stair lift, but the good thing is that for every issue you encounter, there is a possible improvement to make it easier and better for both you and your senior.

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