What can you do to make your home safe for a senior loved one to move in? This is a question that families here in Chicago and around the country ask all the time — and it’s taken on new importance in recent months, with the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Research suggests that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the elderly, with nursing homes and assisted living facilities serving as hotspots in the transmission of the virus. As a result, many families are pulling their senior loved ones out of senior care facilities, and moving them into their own homes.
Even before the spread of coronavirus, it has been growing more and more common for multiple generations to live under one roof. According to reports, about 20 percent of Americans lived in a multi-generational home in 2016, up from just 12 percent in 1980. Data from the real estate industry suggests that 41 percent of Americans in the market to buy a home say that “they’re considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child” when they make a decision on a property.
Even under the best of circumstances, living with a senior loved one can present some challenges. This can be a complicated transition for everyone involved, and there are a lot of factors to weigh when deciding if a senior loved one should move in. What will the financial impact be? Is everyone in your household on the same page? Will you and your loved one be able to get along? What will it take to help your senior loved one move in — and will your home be safe?
When bringing a senior loved one into your home, it’s incredibly important to think about their safety and comfort. Falls and accidents are among the leading health hazards for seniors, but these risks can be minimized with smart planning and a few key actions on your part.
So, what can you do to make your home safer and more accessible for your senior loved one? If it helps, you can break this big question into a few smaller steps. First, think about the immediate actions you can take to make your home more accessible and senior-friendly. Then, once everyone has settled in, think about the bigger tasks that can make your home more comfortable and secure long-term — including reaching out to in-home care providers in your area, who can help shoulder some of the responsibilities of caring for an elderly adult.
Short-Term Solutions: Making Your Place Safe Right Away
Whether you’re moving your loved one out of a long-term care facility or bringing them into your home to recover after a hospital stay, it’s important to be cognizant of the senior’s needs.
While you may not be able to make extensive renovations or repairs yet, there are lots of little things you can do to make your home more secure, accessible, and senior-friendly.
Here are a few simple safety steps you can take as you prepare for an older parent or loved one to move in:
- Get rid of clutter. Cluttered shelves can topple and fall, while full floors can lead to tripping accidents. What’s more, clutter can be a breeding ground for allergens like dust and mold. Keep everyone safe — and free up some storage space — by getting rid of clutter before your loved one moves in.
- Get rid of tripping hazards. Loose rugs, kids’ toys, and pets can all make it harder for seniors to walk safely. Do a sweep and be mindful of getting ready of tripping hazards before your loved one moves in.
- Clear walking paths. Is there a clear path for your loved one to navigate from their bedroom to the bathroom, or from the dining room to the kitchen? Think about how you can rearrange furniture to give your loved one a clear, manageable path through the entire home.
- Add non-slip mats, grab bars, and other senior-friendly finishes. While it may not be feasible to lead a full-scale renovation before your parent comes home, consider adding some low-cost finishes that can make each room safer — including portable ramps, non-slip mats, and grab-bars in the bathroom.
- Give the senior their own space. If you have young children or pets, try to make sure that their noise and mess won’t bother the senior too much.
- Add nightlights. Nightlights are an incredibly important safety feature for seniors. Add lights in the hallway and bathroom, to help your loved one see when they’re up and about late at night or early in the morning.
- Keep their bedroom safe. In the bedroom, make sure the bed is low enough for the senior to get in and out easily, and be ready to lend a helping hand. Make sure that any lights can be turned on and off without the senior having to get out of bed.
- Talk about the thermostat. As your senior loved one moves in, do some research and make sure that your home is set to a safe, comfortable temperature. Set ground rules about the thermostat, and consider investing in smart updates that can protect your loved one’s health without raising your utility bill.
- Adjust water pressure; water temperature. Similar to the thermostat, it takes no time at all to adjust the temperature and water pressure in your home to a more senior-friendly setting.
- Make sure your loved one has access to necessary equipment. As your loved one settles in, make sure they have everything they need to adjust — including their durable medical equipment, such as a walker or cane. If necessary, talk to your loved one’s healthcare team to make sure they are able to get their prescriptions from a local pharmacy, and check in about safe handling for any other medical equipment your loved one may need (such as an oxygen tank or diabetes pump).
Long-Term Additions and Repairs: Keeping Everyone Comfortable
Looking to make a home more senior-friendly for the long haul? Whether you are buying a property with a plan to live with your parents, or are looking to make your place suitable for a loved one’s long-term care, here are some ideas to try that can help keep everyone safe, secure, and comfortable:
- Make your entryway more accessible. Get rid of front stairs, widen the doorway, and create a “no barrier” threshold to avoid any risk of tripping hazards.
- Update your home’s lighting. Look into senior-friendly lighting options, including voice-controlled systems and dimmer switches
- Add senior-friendly modifications. Add a ramp to your front and back exits; widen doorways and hallways; replace door knobs with accessible handles; install a chairlift or automated stair climber.
- Create a fully senior-friendly bathroom. In addition to adding small, essential elements like non-slip mats and grab bars, look into other, more extensive modifications that can help make your bathroom safe for the elderly —including raised toilet seats and a sit-down shower.
- Design a separate living space. Is it possible to create a suite where your loved one can live with privacy — perhaps in the basement, or in a retrofitted garage or carriage house?
- Make kitchen modifications. You can create a senior-friendly kitchen by lowering countertops and cabinets, adding non-slip flooring, and keeping everything your loved one may need within reach with some savvy organization.
Coronavirus: Taking Precautions to Keep Everyone Safe
If you’re moving your loved one due to concerns about coronavirus, it’s important to make sure your home is safe and sanitary. For more information on how to keep your household safe from COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses and germs, check out some of our guides at the links below:
- Disinfecting Household Surfaces: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers
- Keeping Our Vehicles Clean and Safe During COVID-19
- Helping a Senior Loved One Manage Coronavirus Anxiety and Stress
- The Importance of Proper Handwashing and Sanitation for Seniors
For more information on keeping your loved ones safe — and what steps to take if someone gets sick — please consult these online resources from the CDC.
Reaching Out for Help: The Benefits of In-Home Care for the Elderly
In-home care can be a wonderful way to make sure your loved one gets the personalized support and attention they need to live safely and independently and safely — while giving you back time to focus on work, family, or taking care of your household.
Also called home care, companion care, or respite care, in-home care is all about empowering seniors to live to the fullest, while giving relief to those family caregivers who could use some time to step away and recharge.
Home care is an affordable and flexible style of long-term care, with caregivers available for as little as a few hours a week, or as much as 24 hours a day. Depending on your loved one’s needs, a companion can provide a variety of helpful services, including:
- Assisting with routine activities of daily living (ADLs), including walking, sitting and standing, moving from room to room, and so on
- Providing light housekeeping
- Helping with laundry
- Assisting with shopping and meal preparation
- Offering regular driving services
- Assisting with personal care, including grooming, bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene
- Offering medication and exercise reminders
- Spending quality social time together by playing games, watching movies, sharing meals, or going on outings
Keep in mind that it’s all about finding what works for your senior loved one – and for your unique needs as a family caregiver. Whether your loved one requires a companion for a night at the opera; a driver to help them run errands and attend appointments; or a full-time helper who can help them get around the house safely, there are options out there for every situation.
Looking for Answers? We’re Here to Help
Have any more questions about helping seniors safely navigate through coronavirus? Interested in learning more about how in-home care can fit into your aging loved one’s lifestyle? We’re here to help, however and whenever we can.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity at home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help seniors maintain their independence and stay social, without having to uproot their lives and move into expensive and restrictive institutionalized care facilities.
We will work with your family to develop a personalized care plan specifically tailored for your loved one’s needs, and your own hopes and goals as a family caregiver. We believe in fostering an open dialogue and sharing ideas; always going the extra mile with our services; and providing flexible care at the right price for every household.
Whenever you’re ready to get the conversation going, give us a call at 866-910-9020, or get in touch online using our contact form, available here.