Making your apartment more accessible to loved ones
When your loved one moves in with you, you need to be able to cater to his or her needs. Here’s some advice from someone who knows apartments but also is a caregiver himself.
BY: Robert Mansions
Not long ago, it was standard procedure for ageing parents and grandparents to move in with younger relatives when their health deteriorated and it became dangerous for them to live alone.
Nowadays, it’s more common for relatives to relocate to assisted care facilities where they have professional medical personnel who can help. In this struggling economy, it’s also become commonplace for offspring to move back home with their ageing parents as both halves of the family flounder financially. Regardless of the circumstances, there are still many people who serve as primary caregivers for ageing relatives, and it’s important that they know how to improve their living space to make it easier (or in some cases, just possible) for their elderly kin to remain mobile with minimal difficulty. That’s why I’ve decided to compile this list of household changes you can make – some incredibly easy while others a bit bigger.
1) Spread it out – Younger, able-bodied people might have no problems twisting and turning their way through a living room with 12-inch aisles between furniture, but if you have an elderly relative with a walker or wheelchair living with you, much more space is a consideration. You need to create at least two or three feet of space between furniture and other objects. If you have a smaller apartment, this might mean putting lesser-used items into storage for the time being. Simplicity is essential to the comfort and mobility of your ageing relatives.
2) Prevent slippage – Many of us have non-skid strips in our bathtubs, but did you know that they can actually be installed anywhere in the apartment where the floor can be slippery or dangerous? Households where elderly relatives will be living should consider placing these strips in the kitchen, on smooth staircases, and possibly even on any flooring that isn’t carpeted.
3) Create a smooth ride – If you have someone in a wheelchair or even using a walker living with you, it might be wise to remove carpet altogether and lay down laminate, tile or some another smooth flooring instead. Some people even go so far as to get rid of moulding (which can make corners tough) and floor dividers that separate rooms.
4) Go on-rails – As we age, getting up and down becomes a lot more difficult and we tend to lose our balance more. One great change that can help with this problem – in one of the most dangerous areas of the house, no less – is installing rails and grab bars in the bathrooms. These can help elderly relatives to raise and lower themselves without the assistance of another person, and provide them with something to steady themselves if they feel like they might fall. Beyond the bathroom, you might also want to install rails in hallways, and you definitely want handrails for any stairs.
5) Encourage transference – Of course, some ageing relatives need a bit more than rails, and may not be able to support their own weight for very long – or at all – or simply may deem it too dangerous to shower standing up or lift their legs to climb into the tub. If this describes someone in your home, you should invest in transfer chairs or benches. These devices stay in tubs and showers, and allow people to sit while they bathe; they also make it easy for someone – wheelchair or not – to move seamlessly into the tub from a seated position.
6) Bigger, easier, better – That sounds pretty vague, but getting older means losing hand-eye coordination and vision, so make it easier on your ageing relative by buying things with them in mind. That means things like getting oversize displays and controls for heating and cooling, and keyboards, large monitors with relatively low-resolution, and light switches that are designed to be bigger than normal. You can also replace knobs that require grabbing and turning with much easier levers that only need a push.
7) Just slide – Another relatively simple change is installing pull-out shelves so that no one has to go through the difficulty of bending over and reaching deep into cabinets to search for things. Instead, they simply pull on the front of the shelf and it glides out, giving them instant access to everything.
Robert Mansions, 47, is an apartment rental specialist in the US and helps families find property to meet their needs. When he’s not working, Mansions is proud to be the primary caretaker for his ageing father-in-law.
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