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Simple Home Modifications That Go a Long Way

Any number of devices and/or space adjustments can go a long way toward helping your parent (and you) feel more secure and capable of coping with independent living. Here are 10 suggestions:

  1. Make certain the smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarms in your parent's home have fresh batteries and are fully functional.
     
  2. Use an amplified telephone with enlarged buttons and caller ID, which allows sight- and/or hearing-impaired individuals to make and receive calls easily.
     
  3. Acquire rubber grips for faucets and door knobs, rubber jar openers and rubber corner guards, which enable people with arthritis or a weakened grip to securely grasp and turn round knobs and open jars. Place the corner guards on tabletops and counters to avoid sharp edges.
     
  4. Medication organizers — Plastic boxes that contain a section for each day of the week. Allows you and/or your parent to organize medications seven days at a time. Eliminates the need to juggle multiple bottles two or three times a day. You might also ask for nonchildproof caps at the pharmacy, to make it easier for your parent to open the containers.
     
  5. A medical alarm system — These emergency response systems provide assistance round the clock. In most cases a plan is created, containing your parent's medical history, medications, physicians' names and telephone numbers and a list of family members. In the case of a fall or other medical emergency, the service will dispatch medical personnel directly to your parent's home and then notify you.
     
  6. Replace standard flip switches with larger, easier to use rocker switches throughout the house.
     
  7. Replace older appliances with newer ones that turn off automatically — Irons, electric heaters and fans that are left on can be hazardous.
     
  8. Raise the light level in the home — Increase bulb wattage, add nightlights, especially in hallways and near stairs, and add lights in all closets.
     
  9. In the kitchen, replace heavy pans with lighter ones.
     
  10. Install revolving shelves or use a lazy Susan to access items in deep cabinets.
     

As with all matters related to your aging parent, adapting his or her living space to ever-changing needs has to be approached with respect and understanding. Susan Beerman and Judith Rappaport-Musson, eldercare management specialists, and authors of the Eldercare 911 resource books, warn that a parent may feel you are intruding and resent your help. Their advice? "Stay strong, determined and get creative." Remember that your objective is to create a safe environment that will allow your parent to continue to live independently, feel secure and bring you both peace of mind.



  • The number of people who have no children or living siblings to help them with caregiving is 2% at age 65+ and 6% at age 85 and above.
  • The record large proportion of elderly persons now in the population, 13%, will rise to perhaps 20% by the year 2030. (Source: Administration on Aging)