Old age is a privilege not afforded to everyone, but with that privilege comes challenges that need to be addressed with ongoing support, love and care. For most seniors their main priority is being able to stay independent at home for as long as possible, but if you are in the position of caring for an aging parent, you will know how hard it can be to juggle your own work and life commitments while helping them. So here are some ways that you can update their home to help your loved one maintain independence in the home.
While they may currently have good health and mobility, it is prudent to plan how you are going to care for your aging parent and take steps ahead of any decline to make the house as senior-friendly as possible. There will be parts of the house that can be improved upon that can help them live independently for as long possible.
It is important to assess the kitchen area of the home, and review where food, crockery and saucepans are kept. Reorganize the contents of the cupboards so they are accessible without the need for reaching high places or bending down too much. Items that are used daily should be placed in an easy to reach location, whereas items that are rarely used should be placed in areas that are harder to reach.
Set a tray near the kettle that houses mugs, tea bags, coffee and sugar so that everything they need for a hot drink is all in one place.
The lounge is an important room within the home, and it should be made as comfortable as possible for your parent. Whereas once the sofa or armchair was a favored seat, it now may be the cause of discomfort – perhaps the height and depth of the seat is not right for them, or even the upholstery has compacted. Sitting in the wrong position can cause long-term health problems with flexibility and posture being affected when joints become stiff and sore. You need to make sure that they can get in and out of the chair easily, if they can’t, a new chair will be needed.
An appropriate chair will be higher than they are used to but will enable them to have their feet flat on the floor – too high will put pressure on the back of the thighs. It also needs armrests to allow the senior to rest their arms without causing their shoulders to raise or drop.
Make sure that the lighting in the lounge is adequate for their needs. As you get older, you need a greater strength of ambient light to be able to see clearly. Position a floor lamp near a favorite to chair so that the light is strong enough for reading or other activities.
Have a walk around the room and make sure that any cables and wires are tidied away so that they are not tripping hazards. If electrical sockets are regularly accessed, it is a good idea to invest in a power strip so that multiple plugs can be turned on or off without the need to bend down.
The bedroom needs to have a clutter and hazard free route from the bed to the bathroom so that any nighttime visits are risk free. Consider removing some of the non-vital furniture from the bedroom so that there is more room to navigate through – this is important if the senior uses a walking aid.
You should also check that there are lighting options that are easy to reach from the bed. You can buy inexpensive nightlights that are activated by movement, which are a great invention for the elderly and children alike, so even if they can’t find the light switch they are able to move about safely.
You need to also review the mattress on the bed, especially if the senior needs to spend prolonged periods in bed, the mattress needs to have appropriate surfaces for pressure area care so that they remain comfortable and avoid risks of sores developing.
Personal care is an important part of health and making sure that your parent can use the bathroom is essential to them being able to remain at home. Clear bathroom shelves and countertops from unnecessary clutter so that you reduce the risk of them being knocked over. If the medicine cabinet is located in there too, review the use by dates so that medications are safe to use. Check that any rugs or bath mats are backed with slip resistant materials so that slipping is avoided.
As you get older, your ability to balance diminishes, so a good quality shower bench is recommended. Check the bench’s weight capacity so that it will support the senior before you install it! There are also various styles of rails that can surround the toilet for people with low mobility or limited leg strength which allow a greater ease of use and give the person confidence.
Organization is key to helping an elderly person stay in their own home – both yours and theirs. During conversations you may be given clues as to how you can help eliminate stresses that they face daily, but you need to be sensitive how to approach providing a solution.
Think of the conversations that you have that go along the lines of ‘I haven’t been able to find XYZ’, rather than replying how you are not surprised with all the clutter, be gentle in your response and ask what can be done to make it easier and provide a solution. It is important to remember that if you are lucky, you too will be a senior, and will want to have the same level of dignity and respect shown to you as you do now.
It can be incredibly stressful and tiring caring for an aging parent, and you must remember to look after your own sense of wellbeing and health just as you do theirs.