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Home Care Solutions

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Home Health Modifications

- Connie Hallquist

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Home Health Modifications

Expert PhotoConnie Hallquist is the Founder and President of Nest Home Health Modifications and works with her team of Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS), as designated by the National Association of Home Builders, to recommend home health products and design home modification solutions for clients.
Q: My husband and I have looked at retirement communities in our area, but our first choice is to stay in our home that we have owned for 32 years. How can we adapt our home to make it more senior-friendly (I am 78 and he is 82)?

The vast majority of Americans feel the same way that you do. According to AARP research, 90 percent of Americans age 60+ want to stay in their own home as long as they can. Here are five smart suggestions that you may want to consider depending on you and your husband’s health and activity level:

  • First Floor Living: Reconfigure rooms to create a first floor bedroom and bathroom to avoid going up and down stairs. If that’s not an option and stairs are increasingly difficult to navigate, consider adding a stairlift or elevator to your home. If those solutions are too costly, then, at a minimum, install banisters on both sides of the stairwell for balanced support.
  • Bath Safety: Unmodified, the bathroom can be the most dangerous place in the home because of slippery, wet surfaces and its frequency of use. Make sure you use non-slip mats inside the shower or tub, and highly absorbent mats where you step outside the tub or shower. Grab bars are a great investment in safety (they come in so many fashionable styles these days) and should be installed by a professional around the bathing and toilet areas. Make sure toilet paper is easily reached, and consider installing an L-shaped holder that allows you to change a roll in a snap. If you feel you need more assistance in the bathroom, other smart solutions include: bath transfer benches, shower stools, handheld showerheads or even a bath lift.
  • Clear Pathways: Spend time in each room and outside your home, and evaluate how you enter and exit the area and use the space. Make sure you have a clear, non-slip pathway that is completely unobstructed and does not have tripping hazards such as dangling cords, throw rugs, decorative items or stacked newspapers/magazines. If necessary, rearrange furniture into a new configuration and strategically place heavy, sturdy furniture pieces where you can use them as support while walking or a place to pause and rest.
  • Brighter, More Uniform Lighting: As we age, our ability to see clearly becomes diminished. Adding and updating lighting is an easy fix to dramatically improve the safety of your home. Evaluate the lighting and access to light switches in every room and outside your home. Consider adding higher wattage bulbs, motion-sensor lights, dimmer switches, spotlights, nightlights or recessed lighting.
  • Get Organized: Even if your home is “neat as a pin” as my mother would say, you should evaluate your system of organization and storage. Rearrange closets, cabinets and shelves so the most frequently used items are within reach and easily accessible. While you may hate to get rid of anything, consider donating items that have not seen the light of day in years, like that egg cooker! Never use a chair as a step stool, and if you must stand on a stool make sure it has a sturdy handrail for support.

For additional suggestions, a home modification plan and installation, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) as designated by the National Association of Home Builders is a great resource.

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Q: My 75-year old mother will be moving in with us, what changes should I make in our home to ensure that all family members (me, my husband, my children, our dog and my mom) are comfortable, safe and happy?

Your situation, the creation of a multigenerational household, is a huge trend in our country. According to the Pew Research Center, 49 million Americans—more than one in six people—reside in households with three or more generations living under one roof, so you are not alone.

You should embrace your mother moving in as a great opportunity to assess your home and make updates that will not only make living more comfortable for everyone, but also add value to your property. Fall prevention should be your highest priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year 40 percent of seniors fall. In addition to fall-proofing your home, identify those enhancements that address your mother’s specific health conditions, whether it’s arthritis, low vision or hearing loss, for example.

The Certified Aging-in-Place specialists at Nest have created a simple guide for you to follow called: Top Tips for DIY Home Safety (http://www.callnest.com/diy-home-safety.html). These are practical tips, from better lighting and re-routing cords to adding bath mats and re-arranging furniture, that you can implement on your own to improve the overall safety of your home room by room.

I would also recommend that you approach your mother’s impending arrival as a fantastic opportunity to de-clutter your home; better organize closets, cabinets and shelves; put storage units in the garage, basement and laundry area; donate the kids’ old toys, school gear and sports equipment; and, tidy up Fido’s food and water so it’s not a tripping hazard. If you need to add features such as grab bars, wider doorways or ramps, check the web site of the National Association of Home Builders to find a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) in your area.

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