When the issue of “Can mom and dad stay in their home?” arises, it often causes conflict. Getting parents to agree to modify their surroundings can help them stay in their home for as long as possible. How can you make their homes safe?
To make the option viable, you’ll need to go on a fact-finding mission. Spend time with mom and dad as they move through their daily routine. Do they “furniture surf” when moving around the house? Are they unsteady on the steps? Do they climb on a wobbly stepstool to reach an often-used item?
Once you’ve gathered your facts, it’s time to make your case. While parents are never eager to hear that their abilities are becoming compromised, a presentation of your findings — within the context of addressing trouble spots so they can remain safely in their home — will help get them on board.
Here are some modifications that can help keep aging parents safe in their home:
- Raising chair heights.Does dad plop down into his favorite chair and then take three tries and some heavy breathing to get back up? The higher the height of a chair (or couch), the easier it is to get up and down. Purchase chair risers at the local home goods store to raise the height of chairs by up to 4 inches.
- Use furniture glides to maneuver chairs.Sitting down at the table is a seemingly simple task that may become problematic with age. Pulling out the chair, maneuvering the body to sit, and then scooting the chair under the table can become difficult. Chairs with wheels can help, but they can also slip. Furniture glides placed on the bottom of chair legs make sliding easier and also protect the floor. Create homemade glides by putting socks over each leg of the chair. If the chair is on carpet, place plastic mats under the chair to aid movement.
- Insist on a safe stepstool.Make sure your parents aren’t climbing on a chair or wobbly stool to reach items stored in cupboards or on shelves. Find a stepstool with a solid frame and only one step — any more may cause issues with equilibrium. Avoid folding stools that have the potential to collapse.
- Switch to microwaves or toaster ovens.Vision problems can make it difficult to use the knobs on stoves, and weakness and joint issues make it hard to lift food safely from the oven. Many dishes can be prepared in a microwave or toaster oven. If possible, place the microwave at counter height or directly on the kitchen table to slide the food out easily.
- Evaluate the height of the bed.The height from the floor to the top of the mattress significantly impacts the ease of getting into and out of bed. Ideally, when your parent sits on the edge of the bed with knees bent at 90 degrees, his or her feet should rest on the floor. If the bed is too low, elevate it with risers. If it’s too high, switch from a standard box spring to a shallow one.
- Strategically install handrails and grab bars.Handrails assist with climbing staircases to enter the front or back of the house and internal staircases, as well. Install grab bars to help with exiting the tub or shower and also opposite the toilet to provide leverage for sitting and standing back up. If using a suction grab bar, remember that it’s only for balance, not for bearing weight.
- Up the wattage to improve visibility. Good lighting is a key safety feature. Encourage mom and dad to increase the wattage of light bulbs in high-use areas. A nightlight to illuminate the path from the bed to the bathroom is an added precaution. For hard to reach lamps, consider touch-sensitive or clapper-type lamps.
- Replace round doorknobs.Levered door handles are the easiest to use when weakness or decreased coordination in the hands becomes an issue. Levered handles can be maneuvered with a fist or even an elbow.