While it is less common than in prior decades for multiple generations to live together under the same roof, as a general practice, it is becoming more common for aging parents or family members to move in with children so that they might age in place rather than moving into an assisted living community nearby.
If you are considering a communal living arrangement with an older loved one, there may be modifications that need to be made in order for your home to be safe for the senior in your life to be comfortable in your home.
There are some basic questions to ask yourself before determining what modifications to make to your home for senior safety:
Are there loose rugs that might be tripping hazards?
Are the cabinets easy to reach?
Are the dishes and glassware within reach?
Are the countertops at a comfortable level?
Is the bathroom large enough to accommodate any walkers or wheelchairs that might be necessary?
Can your senior enter and exit the shower or bath safely?
Is the water heater set at a temperature that won’t be a burn risk?
These questions will prompt conversations that your family can have together. You can also find a home safety checklist at Rebuilding Together that may prove helpful as you review your home to see what may need to be done.
Review Your Floor plan
First or second floor…
If you have a two-story home, you might want to try to arrange the home so that your senior is able to stay on the lower level. Steps and stairs are often difficult for seniors to navigate.
When a wheelchair or walker is required, it may be necessary to have a wheelchair ramp built to allow access to your home. These typically cost between $1,500 and $2,000 depending upon where you live and who you have construct the ramp.
It may also be necessary to measure the width of the wheelchair or walker and compare that to the width of your hallways and doorways. If the two do not match, one or the other will need to be adjusted. While it might be easier to purchase a different wheelchair, your senior may be attached to the one he or she already has. Door modifications may be made, but a contractor will need to be consulted as altering entryways may also mean altering electrical wiring.
Another easy fix to a common problem is to replace any round doorknobs with newer, lever-style door handles. These are easier to open for older individuals whose hands may be cramped with arthritis swelling or pains. These handles can reasonably be replaced for $10-20 per door.
If you have floor rugs, you may need to consider removing them altogether or adding non-slip surfaces under the rugs to make them more secure.
You can also add non-slip strips to your bathtubs to make it easier for seniors to shower without risks of falling. Both under rug and tub grips can be added to your home for less than $15 each, on average.
Add grab bars in each bathroom. As bathrooms are often much smaller spaces than the other rooms in the house, these can be the most difficult rooms for seniors to navigate. Unfortunately, they also have significantly more falling risks and more surface areas upon which seniors could harm themselves.
Simply adding these small grab bars to give your loved ones a bit of extra stability can make all the difference. Grab bars can be added for less than $20 each, typically.
If you do have steps or stairs that your senior won’t be able to avoid, be sure to add railings or supports. These will be critical to your loved one’s safety. The cost of this addition will depend upon the type of railing you add and whether or not you have to contract this work out. See other tips for future proofing your home here.
Make it Home
One of the hardest parts about seniors moving in with children or other family members is that they are often leaving homes they have been in for the majority of their lives.
A little privacy...
Everyone needs some space. Whether you carve out new space in the form of an add-on room or whether you reconfigure the space you have, try to make certain that your loved one has a space to call his or her own. That little bit of privacy will be so very important.
Decorate with a flourish...
Help your mom or dad decorate that space to his or her own taste, whether it matches or coordinates with the rest of the house or not. It needs to be somewhere that he or she really feels at home. That will help make the transition easier.
Small things - like photos from the old home or a bed covering or a favorite chair – go a long way toward making things feel like home.
Welcome Fido, too...
If there aren’t any restrictions or allergies that would prohibit it, consider encouraging your senior to bring any pets with him or her. That comfort and familiarity will be soothing.
A family that works together to make a new living arrangement work for everyone will be successful in being happy together. Small steps can make a big impact.
If you decide it's best to get your loved one out of the house while the home undergoes these important safety modifications, you may want to consider a short-term stay in senior housing, where your loved one can experience a vacation-like stay for a few days or a few weeks long. You will have peace of mind knowing that they are getting the proper care while you prepare the home for their return. Visit www.seniorly.com and start searching in your area for short-term senior housing options that fit your family's needs.