With the number of people growing old in America today, a lot of families have decided take their elderly parents into their own homes. This is to make sure that their aged loved ones are well taken care of all the time.
The adjustments involved with such a transition are many, and include both emotional and physical adjustments. One of the physical aspects is making a home handicap friendly. With all the other details to take care of, this adjustment can seem daunting. However, making your home disability friendly does not necessarily require major overhaul. Many effective changes can be done on your own with minimal tools and time.
Gaining Access – Doorways
Getting in and out of the home can be a great challenge when wheelchairs or walkers are involved. The two biggest enemies are steps and uneven thresholds. The good news is that these are relatively minor fixes. In fact, many companies offer portable ramps that make it easy to add ramps without construction. These are especially useful for thresholds versus steps. But even if your entry way has steps, constructing a secure ramp is usually a weekend project.
Another consideration is the width of the doorways. While widening an entryway may require a little help from a builder, some doors can be made bigger simply by changing to expandable offset hinges which allow a door to fully open away from the frame.
Kitchen modifications can require a little more effort, but there are a few simple steps you can take on your own. Cabinet doors under the sink block access by wheelchairs, so removing the doors and coming up with a creative alternative such as mini curtains is a first step. If you have two-handled faucets, changing to a single, lever-type handle will make it easier for your loved one to turn the water on and off.
One of the most necessary rooms in the house is host to many accidents for the elderly. Just a few changes can make your bathroom safer, more accessible, and less likely to cause embarrassment.
- Remote-Controlled Bidet/Toilet – one of the biggest affronts to dignity that comes with age, is losing one’s ability to perform basic bodily functions without assistance. The normal process of going to the bathroom becomes embarrassing when a son or daughter has to help cleanup. While bidets used to be accessible only to the more affluent, technology has changed all of that. Preserving your loved one’s dignity can be as simple as replacing a toilet seat with a remote-controlled bidet seat. Easily installed in less than an hour, these seats allow your loved ones to stay fresh and clean without embarrassing assistance.
- Hinge Switch – An easy consideration for tight bathroom spaces is to switch the hinges so that door swings out rather than into the bathroom. This allows the door to be closed easily, even with a wheelchair or walker inside.
- Grab Bars – one of the easiest, yet most important home modifications is the installation of grab bars in the bathrooms. Wet and slippery is never a good mix for handicap or disabled persons, but having sturdy grab bars can go a long way toward preventing falls. Get some tips on how to easily install them in this video.
- Sinks – just as in the kitchen, removing cabinet doors below sinks makes it easier for wheelchairs to move closer to the sink. Swapping out faucets to a single, lever handle is another easy, do-it-yourself modification.
Sometimes, a house just is not built for more people. Finding a private spot to make into a comfortable bedroom for mom and dad can be quite a challenge. After all, you cannot just stick them on a sleeper sofa in the living room. One solution is to take an existing room and convert it. A dining room, for example, is usually an easily sacrificed room, since many homes have other eating areas. Two basic changes need to be made: installing a door, and changing the lighting. This is another fairly easy weekend project.
About the Author
Chris Turberville-Tully works with Newbury Mobility, a Berkshire company dedicated to helping elderly and handicapped people be mobile and live normal lives. Newbery Mobility sells stairlifts, scooters and powerchairs.