The recent holidays were one of the seasons when family members visit their elders and observe changes of aging in their family member(s) or friends. It’s not just the ill, but the “well elderly” who experience the effects of aging.
Aging affects vision, mobility, dexterity and endurance. Arthritis or other degenerative diseases might make it difficult to do the things one used to do.
This usually translates into some very real and practical problems at home. The three most common problems are getting in and out of the house, using the bathroom and going up and down the stairs.
Most people want to remain in their own homes rather than move. Because they are unaware that simple home modifications can alleviate these problems, many develop coping strategies to stay in their homes that might put them at risk for accidents or injury.
While approaching the possibility of home modifications can be sensitive, the right preparation and understanding can make all the difference.
It’s a fact of life.
As people age, their bodies change and they might have difficulty performing certain daily activities because of physical and cognitive limitations. So, the house that once was perfect for them might become their prison.
Before suggesting home modifications and encountering resistance, consider these steps:
- Ask these questions: What kinds of things are you having difficulty doing? What things would you still like to do but can’t, and why? What makes you feel uneasy or unsafe?
- Do a home safety assessment at least once a year: www.Caregiver Stress.com provides a home assessment guide and valuable information through a series of articles and videos in the Making Home Safer for Seniors tab.
It provides information on long term planning, choosing a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and possible funding sources.
- Investigate resources: Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) understand the aging process and can assist with construction and physical modifications to a home. Three are listed for Beaufort, Hilton Head and Bluffton on www.nahb.org.
Also, search the internet for products and services for home adaptation. If you find something that would be immediately helpful, like suction grab bars for the shower or non-slip bath mats, give them as a gift.
Consult a physical or occupational therapist regarding individualized home modification strategies. They can take the blame off the person and put it on the environment: “It’s not you, it’s the house.”
Explaining that most houses were built when people’s life expectancies were not nearly as long really rings true for some.
Advanced planning empowers the person to recognize potential hazards and to make changes essential to their safety and quality of life prior to a crisis and greatly reduces the resistance to change.
Rachel Carson is a Certified Senior Advisor, retired Physical Therapist and owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving the Lowcountry since 1997.