Home Modifications Keep Seniors Safe and Improve Quality of Life
The floors are too slick, and the stairs are too many. Most homes in America are not designed to accommodate the needs of people age 65 and older. The home that many of today’s seniors bought at a young age was not built with an older person’s needs in mind. The bedrooms are upstairs and the door openings are too small for a wheelchair. Outside, the sidewalks are buckled and the manual garage door is nearly impossible to lift.
But this is homeand statistics show that 75 percent or more of older Americans want to age in place instead of entering a care facility. So what can the elderly do to remain independent and safe in their homes that no longer meet their physical requirements?
Plenty can be done, says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and elder care professionals. June is Home Safety Month and a good time to consider home modification as a beneficial solution to reduce the potential for injuries and make everyday tasks easier for older individuals. Modifying a home for improved convenience and safety can range from removing potential fall hazards to extensive renovations.
Whether to repair or upgrade are key considerations when planning home modifications, and the seniors themselves need to be involved as much as possible in the decision making. Depending on the desired improvements, work may be a do-it-yourself project or require the professional help of a contractor. If a senior has specific health requirements for the home, it may be advisable to consult with an occupational therapist or other healthcare professional.
“Often, our home care providers will find a safety or accessibility problem in a client’s home such as a loose railing or faucet out of reach, and we’ll talk with the client and family about these concerns,” Jay Kenney, CoOwner of Right at Home North of Boston explained. “If home modifications are needed, we can help the senior adjust smoothly to the changes and upgrades in their surroundings. We also offer a free Home Safety Checklist.”
Kenney recommends that before moving ahead with home modification, it is best for the senior along with relatives or friends to go through each room noting any areas needing improvement. A factsheet on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website answers questions regarding home modifications, and home assessment checklists found on the Internet can include the following items:
__ Flooring free of cracks, splits and up-turned edges
__ Carpets secure with no loose or torn patches
__ Bright lighting with handy, easy-control switches
__ Properly grounded electrical outlets within easy reach
__ Space to add video home monitoring
__ Easy-to-use faucets, cabinet doorknobs and stove controls
__ Grab bars where needed for support
__ Comfortable counter height and depth
__ Easy access into and out of the bathtub or shower
__ Nonslip surfaces in the bathtub or shower
__ Grab bars near the toilet and bathtub or shower
__ Simple control of sink/shower/tub faucets’ water temperature
__ Shower/bathtub bench or seat
__ Door openings wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
__ Sturdy, easy-to-turn door locks
__ Windows well-sealed and easy to open and close
Stairs and Inclines
__ Stairs in good condition
__ Steps wide enough for whole foot
__ No loose carpeting or edges
__ Secure handrails on both sides of stairway at proper height
__ Ramps to replace stairs or steps inside and outside
In reviewing all the areas of a senior’s home that could benefit from renovations, make a list of potential problems and possible solutions. Pay special attention to stairs and uneven and slippery walkways. To fund significant home repairs and modifications, some assistance might be available through Title III of the Older Americans Act via a local Area Agency on Aging. Community energy and social services departments also may provide monies from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or the Weatherization Assistance Program. If certain home modifications are ordered by a doctor, Medicare or Medicaid may help with costs. In addition, some towns and cities offer community development grant funds, or homeowners may qualify for a home equity mortgage to pay for home improvements.
For more practical resources on home modifications for older people and aging in place, contact the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications (NRCSHHM) at www.homemods.org or 213-740-1364.
About Right at Home North of Boston
The award winning North of Boston office of Right at Home is family-owned and operated by Jay Kenney and Rosaleen Doherty, CSA of Marblehead. They have served thousands of local families and seniors since their inception in 2002. Home care services are brought to seniors in all towns and cities North of Boston including the North Shore, Merrimack Valley and the Wakefield/Melrose area. For more information, contact Right at Home North of Boston at www.rightathomemass.net or call at 877-500-CARE (2273) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Right at Home’s National Organization
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices located in 44 states nationwide and throughout the world. For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at http://www.rightathome.net/about-usor read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/blog. To sign up for Right at Home’s free adult caregiving e-newsletter, Caring Right at Home, visit http://caringnews.com.