If you’ve made the decision to have an elderly relative live with you rather than at a retirement community, that’s an admirable choice, but also a big responsibility. Retirement homes have special features around every corner, designed for the specific needs and limitations of the elderly. While you probably won’t (and don’t) have to fully renovate your home to mimic a retirement home, there are steps you can take to make it safer for your elderly relative.
Bathrooms typically have tile floors, sharp corners and many other elements that can make them unsafe for an elderly individual. Purchase a toilet seat riser so that your relative does not need to fully bend their knees to use the restroom. Installing a small ramp leading into the shower is very important, since stepping into it can be hazardous for older individuals. If your relative requires a walker, install motion-sensor lights in the restroom so that they do not need to let go of their walker to turn on the lights. Put a phone in the bathroom, next to the toilet, so if your relative needs help to get up or has any issue in the restroom, they can call you and do not need to yell. This precautionary measure should be in addition, of course, to wearing a medical medallion they can press in an emergency.
Dining Room Safety
Many elderly individuals cannot lift their feet as high as they used to when they walk. Make sure all area rugs in the dining room are secured to the floor so that your relative does not trip on these. Purchase at least one dining chair with wheels on it for your relative, and make sure it has a tall, supportive back and arm rests. Pushing oneself out from a table can be difficult for elderly people, and having a chair with wheels can make this task much easier.
Make sure your elderly relative has enough space between their bed and the wall to stabilize themselves on their walker when they get up. Beds for the elderly shouldn’t be crammed against walls. All appliances like lamps, radios, and remotes should have easy-to-operate switches. You can use your home automated system to schedule the lights and radio to go on and off at certain times in your relative’s room, so they don’t need to be troubled with doing this themselves, and won’t struggle with appliances if you are not home.
Add ramps to any entryways with steps to make it easier for your relative to go up them. If you have any areas of the house that don’t get much natural light, install motion sensor lights to help your relative safely navigate these rooms. Consider keeping a few reachers (pincher-like tools that help someone grab something off of the floor without having to bend over) around the house, so your relative always has one nearby in case they drop something. Some areas, like basements and garages, can be very dangerous for an elderly person to enter. Set up your home automated system so that it notifies you if you’ve left the basement or garage door open, since doing so could be a recipe for an injury. Since many people develop vision problems as they age, consider using color contrast to make it easier on your relative to designate and locate different objects. In other words, if your relative’s bedspread is light green, the carpet and furniture should be vastly different colors.
Having an elderly relative live with you can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together during this important chapter in their lives. Just keep in mind that items and setups in your home that seem perfectly normal to you may be hazardous to an elderly individual and should be analyzed and adjusted if necessary.