Simple Changes You Can Do To Help Your Elderly Parent Age In Place Safely
If your aging parent lives alone, you probably worry about their safety. There are so many potential hazards from fall risks to fire risks and everything in between. While you can’t put your mom in a bubble, there are easy home upgrades you can do to help them age in place.
While the initial costs may feel expensive, most of these fixes are a one-time cost so once you do it, it is done. The home upgrades will help your parent age in place more safely and you will have less worry.
In addition to common fall risks, improper lighting can also contribute to falls in the home. I had a client whose home was very dark, due to dark curtains and she didn’t have any lighting at her entryway until she took about 15 steps into the home. This can be very dangerous.
What if there is something on the floor that causes her to trip? What if the entry rug (another fall hazard) is bunched up and she trips over it? Or worse, what if there is a stranger lurking outside her door? She wouldn’t have seen him!
While it may be expensive to hire an electrician to install lighting at entryways, it is an important expense. You should also make sure there is proper lighting in hallways/walkways and when they enter their bedroom. Additionally, consider plugging in night lights wherever they may need them for late-night bathroom trips or even until they can get to the next light switch.
Walk In Bathtub or Shower Stall
My parents recently renovated their bathroom and I thought it was odd that they got rid of their tub and purchased a higher toilet seat. Now, I understand. A shower stall is much easier to step into and out of as you get older and a higher toilet seat is also easier to get on/off. Smart parents I have.
If your parent hasn’t made these upgrades, you should definitely discuss them. A shower stall is easier for an elderly person to enter and exit. If they still enjoy taking a bath, consider a walk in bathtub. They can still take a bath but don’t have to balance on one leg to get in or out.
Elevator or Stair Lift
If your parent lives in a multi-level home, there may be a time where you need to consider an aide to get them up and down the stairs. Of course, they should try to avoid this for as long as safely possible since you want them to maintain their leg strength, but climbing up and down stairs can be difficult for an aging body, or an unwell body.
I recently stayed with my brother on the east coast. He lives in a multi-level home. As I have mentioned, I have a degenerative autoimmune disease that affects my hips. After a 3 week visit, I was in a world of pain from climbing up and down the steps several times a day. If your parent has arthritis, this could cause problems for them as well, but they may not want to say anything because they don’t want to seem old, or draw attention to their limited mobility.
These are costly upgrades, ranging from $10,000 for a stair lift to $30,000 for an elevator, but they are well worth it in the long run. A tumble down the stairs can be catastrophic.
In Home Monitoring
While this doesn’t help with mobility, home monitoring definitely helps with safety. There are several home monitoring systems available. At the most basic level are burglar alarms and fire and carbon monoxide alarms. There are also monitoring systems like Life Alert, that allow your loved one to contact emergency responders if they fall or are unwell.
In addition to these systems, there are newer products on the market that can monitor your loved one’s doors or windows and “granny cams” that can help you monitor your loved one in their home. While this may seem a bit “big brother” it can help in detecting a fall or improper use of medication. You can also set up one of the new doorbell monitors that allow you to see who is ringing your mom’s doorbell.
Front Entry Aids
The last thing you want is for your mom to slip on the stairs exiting her own home. Make sure there are hand rails on front steps, even if there are only two steps. I can’t tell you how many people I have stopped from losing their balance climbing up just two steps!
In addition to lighting and hand rails, consider a ramp if your parents use a walker. I think people forget that it is extremely difficult to maneuver steps with a walker. I used to get the walker to the bottom step and then help my clients climb down the steps. Walkers have four legs – front steps are never wide enough to accommodate 4 steps.
If your parent has arthritis in his/her hands, you may also want to consider a lever handle for the front door (and doors inside the house). It is much easier for them to open these doors than a door knob. Of course, if you are visiting with young children, keep a close eye on the little ones. While those door knobs are great for the elderly, they are way too easy for little ones to use.
Taking the time and putting the money into these home upgrades sooner, rather than later, can help your loved one age in place easier.