It’s a fact, as we get older so do our parents, and along with our aging parents can come some problems. I recently did a book review on siblings and caring for aging parents. More and more Baby Boomers are facing tough choices with our aging parents regarding their living arrangements. Some adult children choose to send our parent(s) to a nursing home or assisted living facility where they’ll get around the clock care; others decide to hire help that can come to the parents’ home; while still others may decide to bring the parent to live with them.
My independent grandmother lived alone in senior citizen housing until she was 95. As her conservator, I arranged for her to have certain medical alert systems in place. For example, a service checked in on her every day by phone. My grandmother also had a medical alert button that she wore around her neck in the event she fell.
Alternatively, my late mother-in-law lived for many years with my husband’s sister. As mom grew older, adaptations were made in the house so that she could remain ambulatory.
If you’re considering tucking your parent under your own roof, and that parent is disabled, there’s many things you need to do to prepare your home for their safety. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point in helping you figure out just what you need to do in order to make your home ready.
With a clipboard in hand, take a tour of your house from the front entrance to all interior spaces and take notes.
Check to see if the walkway is even for ease of walking, that the steps are not too steep, and that the handrail is adequate. Does the door open easily and is the whole area well lit? If your parent is in a wheelchair, the walkway needs to be wide enough to accommodate it and you may need to install a ramp.
Take a look at the electrical outlets and make sure there are several within easy reach. Keep dishes and utensils within easy reach too. Pull-out shelves in the bottom cabinetry make for easier access. Buy small appliances that are made for people with arthritis as they are easier to use. Are all the bigger appliances accessible? Can your parent reach the microwave and the controls on the oven? A fire extinguisher is a must for the kitchen, whether your parent is living with you or not.
Make sure your water heater is not set too high as this could cause potential scalding. A single lever faucet may be a better choice to allow them control over the water temperature. You should install grab bars around the toilet area and shower/tub. Consider adding a seat in the shower as well. Put a non-stick surface in the shower/tub and make sure the bathroom flooring won’t get slick and slippery when wet. Everything they need should be within easy reach. If your parent is in a wheelchair, create knee space under the sink and insulate the hot water pipe to prevent burns. Have a nightlight that turns on automatically at night.
You can install grab bars wherever they are needed. Consider getting a hospital-type bed if they need some help getting to a sitting position. Make sure there is adequate lighting and no exposed cords or drapery to trip on. Are the bedroom and closet doors easy to open? Keep the path to the bathroom well lit and clear of stuff at night.
The decision to have your parent move into your house isn’t an easy one. Take the time to make your home as accommodating by researching medical alert products and as safe as you can before you lay out the welcome mat.