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Creating a Senior-Friendly Home

Don't Trip Up on Carpeting

Go through Mom's house, identifying any areas in the carpet that can cause her to trip, and repair them immediately. This is something you should always be on the lookout for during any visit. Having the rug pulled right from under you is never any fun, especially when it's literal. Here are some tips:

  • Throw rugs are downright hazardous. Unless we're talking some great family heirlooms, they need to go. (And if it's an heirloom, it might look great on the wall!) Even with carpet tape and no-skid carpet mats, it's easy for a person who scuffles across the floor to slip a shoe under the carpet and trip. It also throws off depth perception, because Mom has to readjust her focus back and forth from a bare floor to carpet.
  • All stairways should have handrails on both sides.
  • Place brightly colored adhesive tape on the edge of each step, so Mom can see the contrast and know she's at the edge of the step.
  • If the carpeting on the stairs is loose enough to slip on, it's best to get rid of it altogether.

General Lighting Concerns

Older eyes need more light, pure and simple. They also need the light to be evenly distributed, because it takes more time for older eyes to readjust to changing light. It's similar to how you take a few minutes to adjust from coming inside on a bright sunny day without your sunglasses. Here are some things you can do to ,a href="/aging-parents/home-safety/50186.html">accommodate your parent's failing eyesight:

  • Dark hallways have got to go, especially, if they lead to brightly lit rooms or a stairway. The lighting should also be indirect, aimed at the ceiling or a wall to prevent glare.
  • Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs. It might be easier for Mom to use those switches that you press rather than flip. It's easier to press with your hand than to use arthritic fingers to flip a tiny switch. You can also install with on/off switches that are lit.
  • Arrange for emergency lighting to come on automatically during a power outage.
  • Place a flashlight within easy reach on Mom's nightstand. Check on the batteries every few months.
  • Install sound or movement activated lights that go on and off automatically when Mom gets up in the night to go to the bathroom.
  • For lamps on the nightstand, install adapters that make the lamp go on and off with a mere touch of the hand on the base. (Grandma can show the grandkids her magical powers!)
  • Distribute nightlights throughout hallways on route to where Mom might need to go during the night (the bathroom or kitchen, for example). No clutter or cute little tables in the hallways!
  • Make sure Mom isn't using extension cords throughout the house where she can trip on them.

One-Floor Living

Sage Source

Call your local area agency on aging to see if there are programs available to help you with the costs of renovating the home or to give you a low interest loan to do so. You can also contact the Elder-care Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

The last time I thought stairs were fun is when I was a little kid and slid down them when they were newly carpeted. But when I had little kids of my own, terror struck. Those stairs are just as dangerous for your mom. So take a look around the house and see if there is any way to do some innovative redesigning so she's living on one floor.

As I visited families who were taking care of their parents in their two-story homes, I found many a dining room that had ,a href="/home-safety/aging-parents/50356.html">become a bedroom. There are two advantages: no more steps up and down to the bedroom, and their parent could feel that they were part of daily life by not being isolated upstairs.

Of course, the dining room alternative works only if you have a bathroom on the same floor. Many older, two-story homes don't have a bathroom on the first floor because it was considered in bad taste. So take a look at closets and see if a bathroom can be installed. It's definitely worth the investment if you can afford it, and it increases the value of the home.

If you can't create a one-floor living arrangement, look into purchasing a stair lift, which lets your parent sits on a chair that slides up a rail to the top of the steps. There are several companies that sell stair lifts. To find them, look in the Yellow Pages under Medical Equipment, search the Internet using the keywords "stair lifts," or call the National Rehabilitation Information Center at 1-800-346-2742. There are also a number of new websites that sell used medical equipment.

If your mom is being discharged from a hospital, ask the social worker if an occupational therapist can be ordered for a site visit to her home. In this instance, Medicare or her HMO may cover the cost of the site visit (be sure to check). The occupational therapist has x-ray vision; she'll see danger spots you and I aren't going to pick up. Make sure you're there to learn what you'll need to do to make Mom's home worthy of the title "There's No Place Like Home."

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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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