Home Modifications for Older People - Where to Start
When you buy a home, you imagine living the rest of your life there. Often you won't take into consideration any future challenges. With age can come a deterioration in mobility, potentially a loss of independence, and before you know it, you’re finding it difficult to navigate the stairs to the second storey, or unable to climb into the large, beautiful but impractical bathtub that seemed like such a great purchase in your 30s.
Being able to stay in your own home for as long as possible is a goal of many and with modifications (and perhaps with the assistance of family or carers) it is most definitely an achievable goal.
Modifications range from minor adjustments such as adding handrails, to more complex alterations involving building work. However, all these modifications are aimed at making your home safe, accessible, and letting you live independently.
Funding maybe available for some or all modifications depending on your personal situation.
Here are some useful home modifications:
These are a great starting point. Grab rails in the bathroom, especially next to the toilet, as well as handrails on any stairs, to help with your safety and prevention of falls. Make sure they are installed securely and consider the surface they are being attached to, is it strong enough? When using a rail, never pull up on it as it may not be able to take your full body weight. They should be used for support and balance only but when used correctly can mean the difference between getting off the toilet independently and needing help.
If stairs become too hard despite having a rail, it is possible to install a stairlift. This chair attaches to a tracking system on the wall, transporting you up and down the stairs. A stairlift can be quite expensive but a wise investment. As such instalments can allow you to easily access upstairs levels of your home, or prevent you from being housebound, it is an essential support that should be considered in your home.
These are usually for wheelchair users, who are not able to push themselves up a ramp in their chair. Platform lifts cover a vertical distance of a couple of meters e.g. to access a building or house. Such instalments can give you easier access to various sectors of your home.
To avoid the use of stairs, ramps can be used to allow for easy wheelchair access.
Those who find walking difficult choose to use a lightweight wheelchair. This can provide access to the community, while also allowing for their spouses or carers to push them over long distances. Installing a small single access ramp, such as at the front of the house, can provide you with a form of independence to allow you easy access to and from your home. This can be used for those in wheelchairs or who need assistance with walkers. Ramps can either be purchased and fitted over existing steps or constructed in place of steps.
Bathrooms can be the trickiest room to navigate with tight spaces, lips and shower doors all impeding accessibility. Turning a bathroom into a “wet room” is the easiest approach, taking the door off the shower and removing any steps or lips. This makes it accessible for a wheeled commode/shower chair to wheel over the toilet and then straight into the shower. Converting a bathroom into a wet room provides more space and ease if you’re needing a carer to assist you with toileting and showering. Other adaptations include a shower stool or a fold-down bench and a hand-held shower hose that allows you or your carer to shower you more safely, directing water only where needed, minimising wet, slippery floors.
Single level living
Stairs can be incredibly difficult to manage, especially having to do them on a daily basis. If it becomes too difficult or unsafe, consider having a bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchen all located on a single (usually lower) level. A bedroom can sometimes be set up in the living room as it’s usually a large open space, big enough to house a bed.
Non-slip flooring, whether it be applying tread to the corners of stairs or special non-slip paint on the bathroom floor, helps to prevent falls which are one of the leading causes of injuries in the elderly. Removing carpet and replacing it with an option with less friction such as tiles or linoleum, makes floors easier to walk on (or wheel over if using a wheelchair) and easier for cleaning.
When planning any home modifications, it is strongly advised to consult with an Occupational Therapist who specialises in this area and can advise on the perfect solutions based on your requirements. Additionally, please enlist trustworthy builders for any major modifications to ensure they meet safety requirements.
To keep you safe within your own home, you should identify areas that could or are resulting in issues of you accessing. Different forms of alterations should be made for each individual and their home. If you are unsure what you may need to be changed, call our team of experts who can identify the issue and products you may need.