Having my 90-year old grandmother staying over occasionally has shown me that there are particular needs of an older person to be taken into account, and especially more so for longer visits, say over the festive season. This article is useful for those preparing to host older loved ones in the long term, but I also found some valuable tips for me as sometime host.
When you become a caregiver, you need to prepare for your loved one’s arrival. Preparing your home for a disabled or ill adult is much like childproofing your home. Each room must be reorganized and made as accident-proof as possible. Maria Sandella (www.articlecity.com) has created a room-by-room checklist as a guide.
Common Living Areas
- Are all electrical and telephone cords secured or out of the way to avoid being tripped over? Don’t run cords under rugs or furniture, they become damaged or frayed; don’t use nails to secure them down.
- Will your loved one be able to turn lights on and off easily? If not, try touchable lamps or lamps that react to sound.
- Do the doors and windows open easily and lock securely?
- Are walking pathways free of clutter?
- Will your loved one be able to get up and down from your sofa and chairs safely and easily? Straight back chairs with armrests and firm seats may be a wise investment. Add a firm cushion to your existing chairs – adding a bit of height will make it easier for them to sit down and get up.
- If your loved one still uses the phone, perhaps purchase a telephone with large push buttons to make dialing easy. Program all emergency numbers into speed dial, and also write the numbers down and tape them to the wall by the phone. Obtain an emergency call system in case of fall or injury.
- Obtain a wireless intercom system so you can be easily reached if the person needs assistance.
- Make sure a television with remote control is accessible.
- Are your appliances in working order?
- Are your pots and pans, utensils and food easily accessible?
- Are all flammable materials away from the stove?
- Are sharp objects stored in a safe place?
- Is there adequate space to work?
- Can all kitchen outlets be reached safely?
- Is it easy to transfer food from the cooking area to the eating area?
- Are the sink faucets easy to turn on and off and easy to reach?
- Is the entrance to the bathroom easily accessed and free from clutter?
- Will your loved one be able to get in and out of the shower/bathtub safely on their own? If not, install grab bars on both the inside and outside of the bath/shower. Towel racks are not sturdy enough to be used as grab handles.
- Make sure the shower/bathtub has a waterproof wireless intercom so assistance can be summoned.
- Can your loved one shower safely standing up or is a chair needed? Purchase one with non-skid pads.
- Have you placed non-skid strip pads and a bath mat in place?
- Have you installed a raised seat, a safety frame or a grab bar for a safe transfer to the toilet?
- Can the outlets, and light switches be easily reached?
- Do you have a nightlight for those midnight bathroom trips?
- Consider purchasing an electric bed if your loved one has problems getting in and out of a regular bed safely. You can also install a trapeze bar for them to use.
- Can the bedside light be reached from bed?
- Is there a phone that can be reached from bed?
- Is there a wireless intercom that can be used to reach you in case of emergencies?
- Is there a clear path from the bed to the bathroom?
- Do you have guardrails on the bed to ensure your loved one does not fall out during the night?
- Do you have working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers throughout your home? Periodically check to make sure they are working.
- Do you have emergency numbers such as the hospital, fire, and 911 by the phone?
- Have you placed night lights in every room of the house if your loved one is a night wanderer? The little bit of light they do give off will help to prevent tripping and falling.
- Special equipment that you may need
- A hospital bed
- A cane and or walker
- A wheelchair
- A bedside commode
- A transfer lift – to help get in and out of bed
- Wireless intercom system
While this may seem like a lot of work to get your home ready, it really isn’t. Go through each room one at a time and make a list of things that need doing, based on your loved one’s disability or illness. You may find you are more prepared than you thought.