New Needs, New Accommodations
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A user-friendly environment for disabled seniors
For disabled people, maintaining independence and carrying out household tasks depends on adapting the home environment to their needs. With age may come new needs that are more pronounced, and special accommodations may be necessary. Well-conceived remodeling adaptations can do more than keep a disabled senior safe; they can improve quality of life and make things easier on a caregiver or family members who provide assistance. Even limitations caused by restricted mobility can be mitigated.
As a disabled person grows older, sleeping arrangements may need to be changed, floor plans might require expansion in specific places, and bathrooms could need special modifications. Or it could mean taking doors off their hinges and making sure that obstacles have been removed from hallways and bedrooms.
Start by asking yourself several important questions about your current floor plan and configuration to figure out how to best suit your needs. Then, go room-by-room to make specific plans for each:
Addressing new problems
Aging brings new logistical challenges as needs change. Disabled seniors may find it more difficult to get around than in the past, particularly if their home hasn’t been modified to keep pace with a changed condition. For example, an aging disabled person may need a wheelchair or other mobility aid to get around, which may call for expanded entries and hallways. If mobility is a major problem, an upstairs bedroom can be moved to the ground floor.
A careful examination of the home’s front and back doors is necessary to determine whether steps should be removed and a ramp installed (or a lift if a ramp isn’t possible). Consult a reputable contractor to determine the best and most economical option.
Doors and doorways can be a real challenge for disabled seniors, particularly those who are confined to a wheelchair. Think about replacing door knobs with handles that can easily be pulled or pushed. If possible, have door locks and handles lowered to make them easier to reach and manipulate. For exterior doors, consider providing for security and privacy needs by installing eyeholes or a small window at a height the disabled individual can easily reach.
Don’t forget the flooring
Flooring can easily be overlooked when considering a remodeling project to benefit an aging disabled individual. An older home might have flooring that’s ill-suited to altered mobility needs and may crack or buckle with wear. Some forms of flooring, such as rubber, are more durable and stable than ceramic. Laminate or vinyl usually hold up well under the weight of a wheelchair, while tile, which may crack, or wood, which is difficult to maintain, should be avoided.
Seniors suffer more injuries in the bathroom than in any other part of the house. Every handle and fixture should be examined closely as a potential cause of accidents. Towel racks need to be well-secured to the wall. The shower or bathtub area should include grab bars, as should wall space adjoining the toilet. Look into shower heads that have an anti-scalding feature, and make certain that anti-skid mats are placed in the shower.
Lighting is a major safety concern for a disabled senior who struggles to get around. Light switches that are within easy reach and simple to operate should be installed, as well as bulbs strong enough to illuminate an entire room or hallway. Installing smart technology can make it much easier to maintain a well-lit home with anything from motion sensors to voice-activated controls. LED lamps and light bulbs, which last far longer than conventional bulbs, are another very good idea.
Aging forces many people to alter their living environment. For a disabled person, aging may require new modifications to existing safety arrangements. Taking inventory of existing conditions and anticipated needs can ensure that a loved one is safe at home and maintains a degree of independence well into old age.