Elder-proof your home
As we age, our parents age, and we find the need to elder-proof our home and we wonder how to keep our elderly senior citizen parent safe. The possibility, of our parents coming to live with us becomes a discussion that we have always dreaded, but at some point in our ageing, we must have it and along with that comes how to elder-proof and keep our parents safe on our home.
If you’ve contemplated the thought, or if it’s time to make that decision, many forget that besides our parent’s desk sliding onto ours, we now have the added thoughts of their living space.
Is there space going to invade our space? Is there space enough? How do we rearrange our splace to suit their elderly needs? What are their elderly needs? How do we accommodate all of this?
So, let’s say, you’ve taken on the responsibilities of Power of Attorney, you’ve got their bills on autopay, and their phone account is now mixed-into your account. You have determined and they have agreed, which is the most important aspect of this massive life-change for them, that they are looking forward to living with you. They realize their abilities have changed, and now want to be with someone, with whom they feel safe as they age.
Many WWII’ers and baby-boomers are now at this point, and the caregiving is falling upon the younger baby-boomers, and now mainly Gen X.
The division in the generations is real. Baby-boomers are the first ones to say, nope, in a home! Generation X is being left with their consciousness of ageing-in-place and hiring on as-needed basis.
Retirement communities and homes are very expensive and many do not have the income. Additionally, many listen and help their parents to achieve their ageing goals, be it with family or with a friendly community.
Which and what is a better choice is completely personal, on an emotional and financial basis.
Should you decide that your elder parent will be living with you and as long as you are committed to the endeavour, there are a few more items to be considered as our parents age; mainly, safety.
Be certain they can bathe. Cleanliness is next to Godliness; meaning they will have less Dr. Visits. They won’t want to bathe. I know, whatever, but they have decided they no longer need to. Wrong. Make the bathroom a safe environment. Grab bars in your bathroom will be your best friend. Grab bars to be steady to brush teeth. A few grab bars in the shower and the door frame and make certain they don’t have to step up too high into the shower. Safety and comfort is key. Have a shower hose/sprayer low enough to be used. A grab bar shelf for soap and shampoo is also extremely helpful. And eventually they will need one for the toilet area.
The grab bars come in all sizes and styles. Don’t be cheap and know the force the grab bars can hold. The weight of the parent, plus the energy used for them to hang on, must be taken into consideration. There are foam inserts in some grab bars and some that are only metal, you decide which one is best. Keep in mind that a safe grab bar is cheaper than an elder in a cast and a trip to the hospital.
Grab bars are also useful through-out the door jams in the house.
The goal is to keep the elderly moving, doing things, moving muscles, keeping as active as possible. Depending upon the elder, their movement is now vastly limited, but they must be kept active. Tasks will not be achieved in the same manner so anything that can be done to help them with everyday tasks will keep them focused on still being independent and safe.
Remove the rugs on which they may slip, remove the skids and even the most possibility of slipping.
Keep in mind that the elderly shuffle their feet, rather than raising them into a stepping position. So remove anything that their shoes may catch and lift.
They want to live, and keep moving and be helpful and still feel vital and loved, even though they know they are ageing.
Help them to do that. Encourage them to walk, even if in the house, just keep moving. Have them sit in a chair and swing their legs. Encourage them to sit in the sunshine.
Their sleeping arrangements may be different, now having the need to live on the bottom floor, closer to the bathroom and more comfortable on a stiff couch with a back, rather than a queen-sized bed. Be sure their new environment works for their ageing body. You want them to be able to get up and down and around.
It is often difficult for them to see and their depth of field is altered. Electrician’s tape is a wonderful resource to place upon a threshold or small step for them to recognize and maneuver the area.
Walkers are great to have when they are feeling unsteady. They may not need them all of the time, but have one around for that moment they need one. They fold up and are convenient and aide in their independence.
Independence is a need they have and a good need. It will make your responsibilities lighter to continue to have them do as much as possible, for as long as possible. There will come a time when their needs will escalate and you will have to help to a greater degree and hire-out.
Most elders never thought they would be dependent upon their children, or loved ones, and most do not have the money for anything else, and are fearful of being “in the system”. Trying to make them as comfortable as possible and being as patient as possible is all we can give and all we may expect of ourselves, as caregivers.
Don’t kid yourself, care-giving is difficult at best, and doing all you can and know how to do will help this new and uncharted situation.