‘Senior proof’ your home with updated technology and common sense
Two-level homes can be made more accessible for seniors with equipment such as lifts, ramps, stairway lifts, stair glides and elevator lifts.
Independence breeds self-confidence, so when health concerns leave seniors dependent on their children they lose a little bit of who they are, says Brent Guerisoli, marketing and sales manager for Petersen Medical.
“Fortunately, today’s medical equipment enables seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible so their lives change as little as possible,” Brent says. “This takes a lot of the stress off the children and the seniors.”
Seniors often consider moving to assisted living centers or condominium complexes when their mobility is hampered. Although these can be the right solution, seniors can stay in their homes longer by utilizing durable medical equipment that helps them navigate through their homes.
An extra bonus is that many times insurance companies will cover the cost of medical equipment.
Lifts, ramps, stairway lifts, stair glides and elevator lifts enable homeowners who have more than one level of their home they need access to.
Seniors often need medical equipment to comply with the doctor’s orders. For example, someone who undergoes a knee replacement surgery may need a wheelchair or a lift chair to help them stand up.
Wheelchairs, walkers and crutches can be rented or purchased, although insurance companies often have seniors rent their equipment.
Making the home senior ready
As a general rule, seniors need more space in their home. Wide doorways and staircases enable seniors with walkers or wheelchairs to move easily throughout the home. Floors should be kept free of toys and books, and coffee tables and end tables need to be spaced so seniors can navigate throughout the home and easily see any potential sharp corners.
“Really thick carpet can make it harder to get around, and thresholds need to be as smooth as possible,” Brent says.
In general, homes that are 50 years old or older have smaller doorways and narrower stairs, which can be improved through remodeling.
The baby boomers are changing the landscape of Utah County demographics.
“There is a huge mushrooming of the population, and there will be for the next 15 years,” Brent says. “But baby boomers are also still taking care of their own parents in many situations.”
CHECKLIST FOR HOME SAFETY
For older people with health problems, a home evaluation by an occupational therapist can be helpful. A health professional can identify ways to improve home safety, arrange resources and modify the environment to compensate for specific disabilities. For example, home improvements for someone with severe arthritis could include installing lever-action faucets in sinks and tubs, replacing door knobs with lever handles, equipping the kitchen with an under-cabinet jar opener and electric can opener and replacing knobs or small handles on cupboards and drawers with larger “C” handles.
While some improvements can be done by the homeowner, others such as installing a wheelchair ramp may require a builder or contractor.
Simple improvements can be inexpensive and helpful.Here is a list of questions to determine a home’s accessibility and safety.
Throughout the home
• Are handrails securely fastened on both sides of all stairways?
• Are all areas including stairways well lit? Are switches easy to operate?
• Do outside lights illuminate entrances and exits?
• Is a telephone accessible at all times? (Cordless phones may be best)
• Are outside doors protected by security locks that can be easily operated?
• Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors strategically located?
• Are batteries replaced on a regular basis?
• Are floors and stairs kept free of cords and loose objects?
• Is safety equipment (such as grab bars in the tub and near the toilet) properly installed?
• Do the tub and shower have non-slip surfaces?
• Is the hot water heater set to prevent scalding?
• Are tripping hazards (such as cords and throw rugs) removed?
• Is there a night light?
• Is there a sturdy bedside table with a non-tip lamp and space for eyeglasses?
• Does furniture placement allow a clear path between the bathroom and bedroom?
• Do rugs have non-slip backing?
• Is there a comfortable chair for rest or comfort when getting dressed?
• Can frequently used items be reached without using a chair or stool?
• Is a fire extinguisher within easy reach of the stove?
• Is there a work area where a person can sit while preparing food?