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:
- Make certain the smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarms in your parent's home have fresh batteries and are fully functional.
- Use an amplified telephone with enlarged buttons and caller ID, which allows sight- and/or hearing-impaired individuals to make and receive calls easily.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Replace standard flip switches with larger, easier to use rocker switches throughout the house.
- Replace older appliances with newer ones that turn off automatically — Irons, electric heaters and fans that are left on can be hazardous.
- Raise the light level in the home — Increase bulb wattage, add nightlights, especially in hallways and near stairs, and add lights in all closets.
- In the kitchen, replace heavy pans with lighter ones.
- 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.