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Staying at Home Safely
If your loved one lives in their own house or apartment and plans to remain living in that home, you’ll want to ensure that the home is safe and secure. You will also want to be sure that all your loved one's needs can be met there by family, other informal caregivers, or professional services.
In "eldercare speak," planning to remain at home is called aging in place. Aging in place is also used sometimes to specify that an older adult who lives in a facility, such as assisted living, is going to receive the necessary supports to remain in that facility through the end of life.
Complete a home safety assessment.
Keeping the environment simple, consistent, and uncluttered goes a long way to ensuring that an older adult can remaining at home safely. Ideally, items should be easily within reach in all living spaces especially the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom without requiring ladders, step stools or precarious positions to be accessed.
Complete the Home Safety Assessment to evaluate your loved one's environment.
If your loved one has a cognitive impairment, but will be remaining in their own home, complete the Cognitive Impairment Home Safety Checklist as well.
Create a strategy for discussing home safety and future plans.
Now that you've completed the home safety assessment, it's time to discuss and make any necessary changes.
If you don't anticipate resistance, you and your loved one may be able to work together to make some changes in the home, with no difficulty.
For many families, however, things may not go so smoothly. Your suggestions for making the home safer may be interpreted as bossy and interfering, and be generally unwelcome.
Here are some suggestions for creating a successful strategy to approach this touchy subject:
Bring up the topic when things are calm and there are no competing demands for attention.
Instead of plunging directly into changes you think your loved one should make, discuss home safety in the context of a friend or relative's experience. For example, a friend who tripped and broke her hip might have avoided the accident by getting rid of her scatter rugs.
Position yourself as your loved one's co-conspirator. How can you help your loved one stay exactly where they are and foil any plans to move them out of their home?
Ask your loved one to help you with your anxiety about their safety. Your loved one may be willing to make changes on your behalf, if not on their own.
Remember that adults have the right to make bad decisions, and you're not responsible if your loved one makes decisions with which you don't agree.
Consider more extensive home modifications.
If it looks like more extensive home modification would allow your loved one to remain safely at home, this may be an option.
Modifications can be as simple as installing levered door knobs and faucets, installing secure hand rails, perhaps on both sides of a stair case, or adding grab bars next to a toilet and bathtub surround. They can also be as extensive as widening doorways or installing temporary or permanent ramps for home entry and exit.
Two important questions to consider:
Can your loved one afford more extensive home modification?
Will the cost of the modifications be worth it?
These are personal decisions that your loved one, you, and your family need to discuss, especially before embarking on any major renovations.
Carefully assess any contractor you plan to work with for their knowledge about the considerations involved in renovating or modifying a home for accessibility.