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Guide to Home Modifications For Seniors

The majority of older people want to age in place, in their homes. But hazards in the home can make it easier for seniors to fall, and hurt themselves. If you can eliminate the risk, you should!

With home modifications for seniors, you can protect yourself from falls. This article will take you through some of the key elements to focus on when remodeling your house.

Your house should be perfectly designed so that you can live free from worry about slips or falls. In addition, you should be able to use every room with maximum comfort.

Being able to get the most from your home as a senior means adopting a few elements of it. Because of home modifications, today’s elderly are able to keep their independence, not only that, they may save a significant amount of money on senior living.

Let’s start with the bathroom, it represents the biggest risk in terms of falling and slipping, which is why they should be adapted. It has multiple slippery surfaces and also involves sitting down and getting up from the toilet, which can be difficult for the elderly with limited mobility.

Bathroom Modifications and Aids

So, what can seniors do to make their bathrooms safe and risk-free? With different bathroom layouts, styles and features there are many options for improving your experience in the bathroom.

When you entering a shower or tub, you can help yourself with the use of a walker, cane, or wheelchair. Seniors with good upper body strength can make use of the grab bars standing to provide more support.

With the use of a shower chair, you can sit in either a bathtub or a shower. Non-slip bath mats on the floor of a tub or shower can help you feel more stable while getting into and out of the wet area.

Let’s take a closer look at some bathroom aids:

Non-Slip Mats and Rugs

Ideally, you would be able to tile your entire bathroom with non-slip flooring. However, this may not be a budget-friendly option for everyone. Non-slip mats and rugs are a fantastic alternative. A non-slip rug for the bath itself is your first choice and then you can place a second non-slip mat outside of the bathtub.

This means that when you step out, you’ll be on solid ground. If you have a shower, then we recommend getting a non-slip mat for the shower instead. Again, you can place a second mat outside, to ensure that you’re nice and stable both inside and out of the tub or shower.

Grab Bars and Rails

Grab bars are a fantastic addition to any senior’s bathroom. They allow you extra mobility because you can hold yourself up or lower yourself down using them. If you have a carer, it’s also useful for them, as they have something to grip when helping you with getting around the bathroom.

It’s recommended that you install grab bars by the toilet, the bath, and shower, to ensure that you have all the key functional areas covered. All three walls of the shower should be covered by a grab bar. The bath should have two grab bars. For the toilet, either one or two bars will do.

Raised Toilet Seat

For seniors with mobility issues, the height of the toilet can become a major problem. Getting up and down from the toilet is hard when you have problems with your knees, ankles, and hips. Supporting your body weight is simply a difficult task.

You’ll be pleased to hear that even raising the toilet by four inches makes a world of difference! This can be done in a quick and easy DIY manner, by simply buying a specific thick toilet seat which adds an extra four inches to the total toilet height.

Alternately, you can install a new “comfort-height” or “chair-height” toilet. This whole new toilet is specifically designed for senior comfort needs. You have to call in a plumber in order to get this installed for you, but once you have, it’s a great addition to your bathroom!

In some cases, you can also find a special lift chair in order to help with the process of getting up and down from the toilet.

Shower Chair

Seniors with mobility problems, arthritis or recent surgery to hips and knees probably find standing up for too long a challenge. The shower is the perfect example of this unexpected challenge coming to light.

Fortunately, shower chairs can be installed to combat this. Shower chairs can be installed by a handyman, directly into the wall of your shower. You often find models which fold up or down, so that guests who may not require it have the option to fold it away.

There are many options out there, some of which have sturdy handles built-in!

Alternately, if you’re not keen on getting a product installed, you can simply get a non-slip chair or stool specially designed for the shower. These products can be taken into the shower with you and removed after.

This way you can sit for the duration of your wash, with no problems.

Walk-in Tub

Climbing over the bathtub rim and lowering yourself down into the tub itself can be a slip-fraught challenge for even the steadiest footed person! It’s definitely a dangerous slip hazard which features in bathrooms all over the world.

For seniors who have trouble with raising their legs, putting in a walk-in tub can be the perfect solution. Getting a tub installed for senior walk-ins is great because they are specifically designed for senior care.

The way that these work is they have a watertight door in the side of the tub. You walk in while it’s empty, close the tub behind you and fill it. When you’re done, you simply drain the tub and open the door to step out.

You avoid all the hassle of clambering around and you can simply get out and continue on with your day. Most of these tubs have a built-in seat too.

Single lever faucets / Automatic faucet control

Here is a solution for the elderly who have trouble turning the faucets handles. Single lever faucets allow the elderly with low grip strength or low fine motor skills better access to the sink. These faucets reduce the problems of turning the water on and off, as well as modifying the temperature. Seniors who often forget and leave the water running might consider also automatic faucet control.

Kitchen Modifications and Aids

As we get older, our oral abilities deteriorate. By this, I mean our ability to feed ourselves. You may be among the lucky ones, but there are many seniors who have had oral surgery for various reasons or who have problems holding and manipulating regular cutlery.

It isn’t only seniors who have this problem, there are plenty of disabled people who rely on aids to feed themselves too.

The ability to feed oneself is not a luxury but should be considered a basic human right. No matter which condition the senior or disabled person suffers from, there will be crockery and cutlery specifically designed to make life easier.

Most of all, however, the afflicted person will gain self-confidence and esteem by being able to eat and drink without the assistance of a carer.

Adult bibs and protective clothing

These are basically something to protect normal everyday clothes. They come in two types

  • Reusable bibs must be able to withstand regular washing. So strong stitching, stain resistance, and good absorption are a must. They should have a waterproof backing and come with some way to fix to normal clothing, usually Velcro.
  • Disposable bibs should be highly absorbent and completely leakproof. They must be easy to stick to everyday clothing so they’ll usually have a peel away strip exposing a sticky surface.

Plates

If you find it difficult to lift food from plate to mouth (and many of us do) you can end up becoming frustrated and depressed. You can buy purpose-designed plates and bowls as solutions to this problem. They all have some kind of food-guard that either clips to or is molded to the plate.

Usually, dry food is easier to handle than wet food, which is why there are specially designed bowls for soups, stews and other spill intensive meals.

Cutlery aids

Specialized knives, forks, and spoons are a necessity for those of us who have issues with manipulating cutlery. If you have a reduced range of movement, you can buy specially designed cutlery with angled blades and rocker type cutting actions. Some also have large radius handles for easier gripping if you suffer from arthritis or a similar gripping problem.

If your individual problem requires you to have lightweight, weighted and counter-balanced cutlery, it’s no problem. Items can even be made from soft and flexible material to protect gums and teeth.

Cups, beakers, and glasses

There are many types of drinking cups designed specifically for your problem. They range from lack of co-ordination to problems with lifting a heavy filled cup. Many seniors have similar problems to small children when feeding themselves so a spill-proof cup may be essential.

If you have problems with co-ordination, some have a place for your nose to sit. While ‘sippy cups’ have a lid, spout and two handles to reduce spills and allow a two-handed grip.

Handles

Let’s talk a bit more about handles and grips. They can be incorporated into the design of your cup or plate or can be detachable. In fact, detachable handles and grips are available for the entire range of crockery. In fact, most good manufacturers ensure that their products offer universal fittings.

Straws and drinking assistance

If you can manage to hold a regular cup but cannot tip your head back to drink, then you need an aid similar to a drinking straw. Once again, certain cup designs incorporate straws while others detach and fit any cup.

Bedroom Modifications and Aids

Some of us become bed-ridden as we become older while others just can’t stretch or bend as easily before. Whatever the reason, you might need assistance with mobility or looking after yourself in bed. Being in bed may not even be permanent,  some seniors might have had surgery or have flu and need bed rest to recover.

Bed rails

The last thing anyone needs is to fall out of bed, especially if you are a senior. Not only is there the problem of injury, but you might have problems climbing back into bed. Bed rails solve this problem. They are usually completely detachable and have foldable brackets that slide under the mattress.

Many are fully adjustable so you can adjust the height to suit the situation.

Many bed-rails incorporate tray platforms and organizer pouches so you can eat and keep essential items nearby.

If you just need help getting into and out of bed, use a smaller rail, known as a bed cane.

Reaching tools

Many seniors have problems bending down to reach items at the floor level. It’s even more of a problem when you’re in bed and drop your reading glasses on the floor. That’s where ‘grabbers’,’ grippers’ and ‘reachers’ come into their own.

These are simply movable claws on the end of a stick, operated by a trigger device. They come in a variety of weights and lengths to suit the person. Most have magnetic claws to help pick up dropped pins and needles.

Most reachers will help when dressing too, by pulling underwear up your legs and socks onto your feet.

If you have problems putting on shoes, there is a variation on this item which is basically a shoehorn on a long handle.

Orthopedic support cushions

Sometimes we have certain posture-related aches and pains or need to support an injured limb. If so, you need a support cushion. They come in various sizes and contours depending on their use, but the most commonly used types fit

  • Inside shoes.
  • Under the knee.
  • Around the ankle and foot.
  • In the lumbar region of the back.
  • Around the shoulder and neck region.
  • Forearm and wrist.

They are designed mainly for support rather than for comfort. Although when the joint is supported correctly, it is usually comfortable.

Bedside commode

Seniors often have a short wait time when it comes to the call of nature. Often, someone who is bedridden cannot get to the toilet in time so a commode is perfect to keep nearby.  When not in use, it looks like a normal upright chair with a hinged padded lid over the waste receptacle.

And in fact, you can use it as a regular chair if preferred. Anyone can easily remove the waste bowl for emptying and cleaning.

Night light

You can buy a wide range of bedside nightlights from your local home improvement store or online. When it’s time to sleep, the patient wants dim light but also needs to see to get out of bed in an emergency.

Many types are available such as glow plugs that fit directly into the power socket, up to variable intensity bedside lamps. It’s best to identify your needs, assess your budget and see what is available before you go and buy one.

Large numeral alarm clock

For those of us who wear reading glasses, there’s nothing worse than fully waking up before searching for them to look at the alarm clock. It’s far better to quickly glance at the clockface before rolling over and having another hour.

The solution is to have oversized numerals so you can easily read them without resorting to your spectacles.

Final words

Mobility problems in the elderly can cause physical and psychological complications and make life difficult. So, hopefully, you’ve found some great hints here for modification of the home and ensuring it’s senior-friendly and safe.

Most of these options are also great for wheelchair users because they make the whole house easier to get around and use. For seniors and their carers, these elements of the home modification are certainly a great choice.

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