Many older adults (such as you) want to keep their independence as long as possible and that means living alone. Sometimes however, a home can be filled with hazards that can impede the quality of life for a senior. Therefore, with a few modifications, you can keep your independence for years to come.
It is great to know that many modifications can easily fit into most budgets. The only hard part is where to get started! You have to look at what your lifestyle is and what your needs are. This will likely dictate the primary modifications you will need to implement. Of course, you have to keep your overall safety in mind as well.
The best way to determine what modifications you might need is to go through a checklist room by room. Here are some things you should think about in your planning:
1. Bathrooms and kitchen areas – If you are hindered by arthritis, you will want to ensure that the cabinet knob are easy to manipulate. Can you turn the faucets off and on easily? If you have balance problems, you will need a bar in the bathtub and probably along the wall or near the toilet for assistance.
Can you easily reach the cabinets above and below your eye level? What about the height of the counter area? Being able to get in and out of the tub is also a consideration as well.
2. Check the traffic areas like the steps, hallways and stairways. If you have stairs, you will want to make sure that you have handrails on both sides should you lose your balance or need assistance going up and down. Look at the flooring. Is the carpet secure or will it likely trip you at some point? Is the laminate or tile floor fairly smooth? Do you need a lift installed that will take you up the stairs? Sometimes, stairs outdoors can slow down a senior and cause a potential fall. See if a ramp would be more advantageous for gaining entry into the home.
3. Storage areas such as closets can pose a big problem. If you have lost strength in your arms or you have joint issues, chances are that you cannot hold your arms above your head for very long. Therefore, you might want to reconsider any high shelving units in your closets or pantry in the kitchen. Could a storage bin system be more efficient? Look for ways to increase storage so that you don’t have to stoop too low or reach too high. In addition, avoid having to climb a step stool for anything.
4. Flooring options are important. If you have any step-ups or step downs, are these easily seen? Sometimes, seamless laminate or tile floors give the illusion of one floor when there is a graduated step. Are the places where different flooring materials like carpet and laminate or tile meet protected as tripping hazards? Are area rugs protected by slip-proof mats?
5. Ventilation and lighting can be important to maintaining independence. Check for sufficient light sources in each room. Do you have adequate light when you get up in the middle of the night? The lights should also be bright enough to see any potential hazards as well. Do you have good air circulation and vents for heat and air?
6. Assistant devices can increase your independence in living alone as well. Alarm systems help in case you need help. Special speakers throughout the home can ensure that you hear anyone ringing your doorbell. Installing telephones in strategic locations can ensure that you will get to them easily in case of emergency. Checking the electrical outlets and switches is also important too.
There are a variety of things to consider when modifying a home for independent living. However, most things can be easily done and will provide you more time in your own home before assisted living becomes an issue.