Modifying Your Home for an Elderly Parent's Comfort and Well-Being
Being there for your parents in their old age is an admirable thing to do, but it isn't always easy. Many people eventually need more care than they can get when living independently, and sometimes the simplest solution is to move your parent or parents into your own home.
However, this isn't without its challenges. You probably didn't purchase your home with the needs of an elderly person in mind. You might have stairs, slippery bathroom flooring, tall counters, and other home features that could pose an inconvenience or safety risk for your parents.
So, how can you modify your home for an elderly parent's comfort and well-being? What is reasonable in terms of changing your own living space and paying for modifications? While every situation is different, here are some things to consider if you'd like to make your home more comfortable for your elderly loved ones.
Assessing Your Parent's Needs
Home modifications can greatly improve your parents' quality of life. However, it's important to be thoughtful about which modifications will most benefit your relatives and their individual needs. To do this, you'll want to have some assessments done and consider your parents' individual health concerns.
Home Safety Assessment
Conducting a home safety assessment is the best way to spot any glaring issues that need to be addressed. You'll want to take note of any trip hazards, such as rugs, carpets, furniture, cords, and clutter. If you have stairs, check to see if there are any slipping hazards or loose handrails. Other considerations include whether or not there is adequate lighting, stability aids in the bathroom, and enough space in each room to move around.
Walking through with your parents and identifying areas of concern will help you create a customized modification plan for their safety and comfort. Taking the time to perform this assessment will pay off in the long run.
Medical/ Mobility Requirements and Preferences
Once you know the potential problem areas within your home, talk to your parents (and their various primary care providers, if possible) to figure out what their specific needs might be. Will they need to use a walker? Is their mobility fine but their eyesight and hearing aren't? Different health problems require different modifications.
Be sure to ask your parents about their preferences, as well. The goal is for them to feel safe and comfortable when moving in with you. When making your modification plan, it's very important to include their preferences in the calculations.
Potential Home Modifications for Elderly Parents
Once you know the wants and needs of your parents, it's time to consider the different options you have for modifying your home. There are many ways to make a home more accessible in nearly every room of the house, such as:
- Grab bars and handrails
- Elevated toilet seats
- Shower seating
- Walk-in shower or tub
- Bed of optimal height
- Adjustable bed
- Accessible wardrobe
- Lever handles and faucets
- Lower countertops
- Accessible kitchen tools
- Quiet-close drawers
Living Room/Common Areas
- Comfortable seating that's easy to get in/out of
- Simplified remotes/AV equipment
Throughout the Home
- Wider doorways
- Removal of thresholds
- Non-slip flooring
- Improved lighting
- Emergency response system
- Automated lights and temperature control
- Wearables for monitoring
- Sensory-friendly garden and landscaping
- Easy access to trash and mailbox
- Security system
Prioritizing and Budgeting
Most people don't have the budget for all the modifications they would make, in a perfect world. So, it's important to pick and choose the most important changes that will help improve your parents' quality of life.
Make a list of everything you would do if you had an unlimited budget. Then, find a number that's within your actual budget. From there, you can choose the most important items to focus on for safety and well-being.
Because cost overruns are extremely common, have some things on the list that you're willing to cut if you need to, or pad in a little extra on your budget knowing that there will probably be some unexpected expenses. Some states offer loans for this purpose.
Hiring for Home Modifications
You can do your own estimating initially, but it's hard to get a realistic number without speaking to some professionals and getting some quotes. Be sure to talk with more than one contractor so that you have some options. Some contractors charge much more than others, for various reasons. There are lots of tools online for researching contractors, but it also never hurts to ask people you know for recommendations.
Depending on your projects, you might want to hire a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS). These professionals understand the requirements of home modifications for the elderly and will ensure that everything is safe and optimized.
No matter what, be sure to get some references and testimonials from the contractors you hire. You are placing a lot of trust in someone and it's important to do your due diligence before signing anything and handing over your money.
Maintaining and Updating Home Modifications
Once you've set up your home to be safer and more comfortable for your parents, it's important to remember that maintenance is critical, especially for modifications focused on safety. Keep an eye out for any wear and tear that could cause a safety issue and address those issues immediately.
You'll also need to consider the changing needs of your loved ones. Over time, their mobility and health needs might change, meaning that you might need to make additional modifications. You might even need to consider hiring a nurse or other caregiver to help you with their care.
Keeping Everyone Safe and Happy
Bringing your parents into your home is a huge disruption, no matter how much you love them. Making these modifications is often necessary for their health and well-being. Don't forget, however, that your happiness matters, too. Be sure to maintain healthy boundaries, take care of yourself, and embrace the benefits of having your parents so close during their golden years.