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Creating a Senior-Friendly Home

When I was caring for my son while his great grandmother lived with us, I led a rather schizophrenic life. At one end of the house I was creating obstacles to keep him out of trouble and at the other end of the house I was taking away obstacles to keep Grandma from getting into trouble.

Today, there are many things you can do to make your mom's home a safer, more user-friendly place to make the quality of her life better and easier. Here are some of my top picks.

Dining in: The Kitchen

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There are all kinds of gadgets to make cooking easier that are available through catalogs, online, and at specialty stores at the mall. The National Rehab Information Center (1-800-346-2742) offers information on products for easy living for people with disabilities. Or contact the Access Foundation at 516-568-2715.

Believe it or not, one in four people over 65 years of age is malnourished. Cooking for one seems to discourage older people from making a healthy meal. They also find opening jars, fidgeting with the stove, and reaching for pots and pans a hassle. Here are some ways to make life in the kitchen easier and safer:

  • Encourage Mom to use a microwave oven to prevent accidents on gas or electric ranges.
  • Replace standard dials on the stove with easy-to-read, large dials. Make sure the off button is very visible (consider marking it red).
  • Take a look at Mom's small appliances. Do they need to be updated? Make sure she has an easy, automatic can opener, a jar opener, a small microwave that can be easily programmed for her favorite meals, and a toaster oven to heat meals.
  • Hang potholders near the stove for easy access so Mom won't have a need to grab a towel or use an apron. Advise her not to wear housecoats or other apparel with large open sleeves that can get caught on the stove or pot handle.
  • Make use of lazy Susans so that the dishes, pots, pans, and cooking materials that Mom uses most frequently are in easy reach. Reaching too high or too low which throw her off balance.
  • Invest in a set of clear plastic microwavable containers for heating and storing small portions of food.

Danger Zone: The Bathroom

Here's a room where you really need to invest some energy and make some changes. More accidents occur in this room than in any other space in the house. Here's what you can do:

  • Place rubber, nonskid strips on the bathroom floor and nonskid bathmats in the tub and/or shower.
  • If Mom uses a shower, make sure the shower curtain is not held up by a tension rod--if she grabs it for support, she'll fall with it. Install a rod that is bolted to the wall.
  • Install handrails on each side of the toilet and a raised toilet seat.
  • Install grab bars in the shower and/or tub.
  • Make sure that the water temperature is set at a safe setting (120 degrees or lower); many older people lose their sensitivity to temperature and can scald themselves.
  • Check that the faucets are clearly marked hot and cold. Consider color-coding them, with hot being red and blue being cold.
  • Organize the medicine cabinet, perhaps color-code the back of the shelves so that cold medicines, prescriptions, and first aid supplies are easily identified.
  • Safely position small appliances away from the sink or tub, and erect shelving specifically for this purpose.
  • Attach a liquid soap dispenser to the wall in the shower so that Mom won't slip and fall when she tries to retrieve a bar of soap she's dropped.

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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