Turn Your Home into Safe Senior Housing
Most seniors want to live in their own homes as long as possible. This can become difficult if a person is undergoing rehabilitation after an injury, or receiving therapy for an age-related illness. Most homes are not initially built with seniors' in mind. However, with a few simple modifications, your home could be transformed into safe senior housing.
There are dangers associated with unsafe housing for seniors.
Seniors who choose to remain in their home but make no effort to accommodate changing physical needs run many risks— the greatest of which may be the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
Falls are one of the most significant concerns for seniors living at home by themselves and are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults.
Falls can cause hip fractures, paralyzing back or neck injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries.
The long-term prognosis is often poor for a person over 65 who suffers a serious fall-related injury — in 2010 alone, the CDC estimated that over 21,000 elderly Americans died from unintentional fall injuries, and it was listed as the fifth leading cause of all US deaths for that year.
You can stop falls before they happen with an aging-in-place remodel.
Prevention is the best way to avoid injuries, and a home remodel designed specifically around a senior's needs can be an effective toward that end.
Think about it. Let's say your parents have been in their current home for twenty-five years or more— long before mobility was ever an issue.
The house stoop was no problem for them to navigate, and all the raised weather strip at the base of the front door's frame did was keep storm water from flooding over the nice, polished hardwood foyer. Climbing the stairs to the bedroom every night wasn't an ordeal.
But in those intervening years, your parents have gotten older and developed health conditions that make getting around a little bit harder. Now, getting in and out of the house is an obstacle course.
Even making past the front step is a struggle; just one carelessly dragged foot or walker can catch that weather strip. The hardwood floor is slippery, and there are no handholds in the hallway. Getting upstairs for a good night's sleep might as well be an attempt to summit the Matterhorn.
A remodel can address those issues, simplify your parent’s life and make their home safer, so that you don’t have to worry about them living in the family home as they get older.
Though it would be impossible ever to make a home entirely fall-proof, incorporating some universal design principals can greatly reduce the chances of a preventable injury.
Before beginning a home remodel, consult the experts.
In response to the increase in demand for safe senior housing, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the AARP collaborated to develop a program to train professionals how to use simple design techniques to make homes more suitable for independent senior living. The Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation was originally intended for home remodelers, but many designers, health care providers, contractors and other professionals are able to assist in planning for a senior who chooses to age in place.
A CAPS professional can work with a licensed contractor to make a number of improvements that turn the family home into safe senior housing:
- Make doorways easier for seniors to get in or get out.
- Design a complete, one-story living space for people who can no longer navigate stairs.
- Widen corridors or doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or reduce foot traffic congestion.
- Improve visibility at hallway intersections and eliminate blind corners.
- Redesign bathrooms, kitchens and other high-potential fall zones to incorporate more safety features, such as non-slip surfaces, railings and grab bars.
- Allow more natural light into dark spaces, or increase the amount of artificial lighting to improve visibility in dark homes.
You could also encourage your parents to consult an occupational therapist (OT)—a health care professional who can assess a senior's physical challenges or special mobility needs, work with the patient to develop new methods to safely or more easily perform daily tasks based on those physical limitations and work with a CAPS specialist to recommend environmental or design changes tailored to the individual.
Aging-in-place is desirable and possible to achieve with the right planning.
Talk to a CAPS-certified professional in your area and find out what you can do to make your home more suitable for you or your loved one — even people who require post-injury rehabilitation can sometimes successfully remain in their homes. Safe senior housing begins with simple changes.
The Health Care Management Group operates several retirement and physical rehabilitation facilities in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas. We are where living continues.