Freedom is such an integral part of who we are as Americans that it may be hard to imagine life without it. Yet we know that aging, mobility complications, and health concerns can contribute to compromised independence. In fact, a recent survey revealed that what seniors fear most – even more than death – is a loss of freedom.
The good news is that there are home modifications that make it possible for seniors and those with disabilities to continue to live safely and independently at home.
Begin with a Plan
Whether there are immediate access/mobility needs to be addressed or future needs to proactively prepare for, the first step is planning, starting with enlisting a team of family members, your care team, and a professional home modification specialist. Each of these people can contribute unique ideas to consider and recommendations.
Prepare for Potential Conflict
No one actually wants adaptive modifications. We all want to think we can still do what we’ve always done. Aesthetics may also come into play, if a senior is focused more on how a solution will look rather than the problem it will solve. Arguments are common. To help set the stage before discussing any potential modifications, start by getting an honest interpretation of what the problems are and how to best resolve them.
These easy and inexpensive home modification ideas from Chuck Volmer of 101 Mobility are a great place to start.
- Declutter the home and make sure there are clear paths for people to walk.
- Add more lighting. This can be as simple as changing the type of lightbulbs in current lighting fixtures, or adding a few more lamps strategically around the home.
- Add contrast with different paint colors so walls and floors don’t all look alike and it’s easy to discern changes.
- Add grab bars and railings.
- Install small threshold ramps where there may be just a step or two. Most falls occur with one step, and interestingly, the shorter that step is, the worse it becomes from a fall risk standpoint.
- Replace knobs with levered handles.
- Remove or secure floor coverings.
- Eliminate all loose cords.
Don’t Forget the Vehicle
Driving, or even just being able to safely get into and out of a vehicle, are key contributors to our freedom and independence. These vehicle adaptations can help:
- If a motor scooter or powered wheelchair is used, a lift can be added to the back or inside of the vehicle to transport it.
- Turning seats can be added that allow the person to pivot and place both feet safely on the ground.
- Hand controls for certain kinds of disabilities can be added.
- Or for all kinds of bells and whistles, look into disability vans.
Home Care Can Help
A great way to enhance senior freedom is by partnering with a professional home care provider. Home care empowers seniors and those with disabilities to continue to live in the homes they love, and to stay active and engaged in the community around them.
- Perform a fall risk assessment of the home to offer additional ideas to improve safety and mobility
- Provide accompanied transportation to safely allow seniors to go wherever and whenever they would like
- Help with housework, decluttering, and organization of the home
- And much more