January 5, 2016

Make your parents home senior friendly

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Are your parents ageing in place ?

According to a recent  housing survey, “83% of older Indians want to stay in their current homes for the rest of their lives,” but other studies show that most homes are not designed to accommodate the needs of people over age 65.

Most seniors live in homes that are more than 20 years old. As these buildings get older, they may become harder to live in or maintain. A house that was perfectly suitable for a senior at age 55, for example, may find the bathroom and kitchen quiet uncomfortable to use by the time they are 70.

Seniors may face the following issues as they “age in place”.

  • Toilets are suddenly too low putting stress on knee joints.
  • Cabinets in kitchen are too high or difficult to use.
  • No place to sit and work in kitchen.
  • Steps are best avoided. This is especially if they have stiff, arthritic joints.
  • Lighting in toilets and kitchen may be insufficient.
  • Smelling of gas leaks may get difficult.
  • Bathrooms are wet and slippery.

The solution for this is to create a more senior-friendly home for your parents. In technical terms it is called home accessibility and means redesigning homes so that seniors can stay in place comfortably as they age.

 

Where do I begin ?

These adjustments can work for any home. Some are major overhauls, but many are easy and inexpensive fixes. 

 

Please explore the slides below for commonly recommended home modifications for seniors.

 

Modifications recommended in kitchen

Pull down shelf (top cabinets)
Adding pull down shelf's in kitchen will greatly reduce the amount of stretching your parents will have to make to reach food stuff. Alternatively you could lower the upper cabinets to achieve this purpose. 

Pull out shelves (Lower storage)
These will ensure your parents won't have to bend and stretch too much to reach cookware.
Pull out shelf (stand shelf)
If you have some space in the kitchen then this is the best way to store food stuff. It is convenient and your parents will find it easy to keep it clean.
Seated work area in kitchen
Having a seated work area in kitchen makes cooking comfortable and safe. Just find a place for cooking books and magazines. 
Lever type taps
Most seniors have stiff fingers as they age. Your parents will find lever type taps very comfortable to use.
D-handles for storage racks
Pulling draws/cabins with knob type handles is difficult if your parents have stiff fingers. Replacing them with D-handles will be of great help.
Gas leak detector
Ageing and forgetfulness go hand in hand. Ability to react to dangers also reduces as your parents age. Having a gas leak detector in kitchen keeps your elderly parents safe. 
Smoke detector
Smoke detectors saves lives. Each home should have at least two smoke detectors. Since most fires accidents begin in kitchen, it makes sense to have one just outside the kitchen.
Anti slip mats
One in three elders above 65 suffer a fall in bathroom or kitchen. Most falls have serious impact on the mobility of your parents, some can even be fatal. Having anti slip mats greatly reduces the chances of falls.
Bottom freezer refrigerators
Reaching vegetables, diary products and water bottles is a pleasure with bottom freezers. Your parents will surely enjoy it.
Induction type cook tops
They have many advantages over a simple gas type. No more gas leaks, burned fingers, baked-on spills.
When you take the pan off the burner, the unit will automatically switch off, and in most cases you can touch the burner seconds afterwards without burning yourself and the best part is cleaning them is very easy.

Modifications recommended in bathroom

Grab bars
Over 30% of individuals over 65 fall at least once per year. Many of these falls have serious consequences, such as a hip fracture, head injuries seriously affecting  the quality of life of a senior.  Make your parents bathroom safer and more versatile by adding grab bars. Grab bars provide extra security for that first slippery step. Three grab bars positioned appropriately will suffice for most bathrooms.
Raised toilets
Elevated toilet seats are great for improving safety and comfort for the elderly when getting onto and off of the toilet.
For some reason, toilets are generally made quite low.As with any surface, getting onto and off of a lower height is more difficult than when a surface is higher. Elevated toilet seats simply raise the height of the toilet seat to make this easier.
Shower chairs
These chairs have comfortable seats and rubber tips on the legs that keep it from sliding on tile. You can purchase chairs with or without arms or backs, depending on how much stability you need. Shower chairs when installed would promote safety and create an atmosphere that’s relaxing and spa–like for your parents.
LED lights
Adequate lighting can help seniors see and avoid bathroom hazards.
Not only are LEDs energy–saving and convenient because you don’t have to replace the bulbs for years, but they are minimal in appearance so you can get a more clean–lined, modern look in the bathroom.
Anti slip mats
These are a must for elderly who have poor balance or when under medication which can affect their balance. The Cushioning effect of most anti slip mats helps relieve stress. Most of these come as mold/fur free product and dry rapidly after cleaning.
Hand held showers
As your parents get older, they lose flexibility and muscle strength. This makes it harder for them to shower with a fixed wall mounted shower head. Twisting and turning in the shower can be greatly reduced by using a hand held shower thus reducing chances of falls. Further they come with massage options which makes bathing pleasurable for your parents.

Modification recommended in bedroom

Moment sensor lights
They would show the way from bed to the bathroom, trigger as soon one steps out of bed and decent enough not to wake up partner. A useful device especially if frequent trips to bathroom is involved for your parents.

Memory foam/Latex mattress
Mattresses like us wear out and fatigue over time. The Better Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress every 5 to 7 year. 
Replace the mattress for your parents if
  • They wake up with stiffness, numbness, aches and pains.
  • It dips likes a hammock and is all lumpy.
Most experts recommend memory foam or latex mattress for seniors citizens.
A phone with SOS facility
These big button phones are perfect for seniors who are comfortable with landlines over mobile phones.
They are designed to make using a telephone as simple as it can be.
Photo memories for easy dialing, amplifier for extra audibility, SOS option will help your parents reach family and friends with a push of a button.
Clap on/off lights
Your parents won't have to get off the bed to turn on/off  lights and television. They will be able to do this with the clap of their hands. Say 2 claps turn on the lamp, 3 claps turn on the TV.
Well they don`t have to clap very hard. The Clapping sequence is more important than how loudly they clap.

Modifications recommended at entrance

Moment sensor light at entrance and backyard.
A well lit entrance area is must have for security reasons. Having a moment sensor light gives added advantages of comfort and safety. 
They would help your parents locate and identify keys with ease and provide safety by surprising intruders.
Permanent ramp
Having a ramp at entrance would be of great help for other elderly visiting your parents home. Further preparing your home for a emergency is a smart thing to do.
Rubber ramps
Rubber ramps are a good alternate if having a permanent ramp is not what you need.


Key less locks
No more searching for keys at the bottom of the handbag.
Just press the numbers to open the lock. Alternatively a traditional key slot is provided. Certain models sound an alarm after the incorrect code is entered more than three consecutive times making them reliable and user friendly.


Conclusion

There is so much you can do for your elderly parents safety and comfort even if you are living miles away. These products and modifications are particularly necessary if an aging parent lives alone as other family members may not be aware of the struggles their loved ones are having on a day today basis. Most seniors will never get to know them on their own as they are not tech savvy and retail stores in India have largely ignored senior citizens as a consumer class and hence advertisement of these products are virtually non existent. 

The main benefit of making home modifications is that they promote independence and prevent accidents.

Emptynest.in is tips and sharing oriented.

Please use our Forum/Facebook page to share your concerns, experiences and tips regarding elderly parents that can help others.

 

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Krishna

Krishna is the originator and the primary contributor of this website. Engineer by profession and a avid reader. The mission of the website is to understand issues and find solutions which 60 plus parents may be facing as they enter the phase of emptynest.

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