Keeping a person that is aging safe when they live alone is a key concern for many of us as our parent’s age. It is important for them to stay in their homes for as long as possible. I can’t blame them for wanting to stay where the memories are. It is comfortable and familiar. Moving would be strange, unfamiliar and many older people do not handle change well. All the more reason to alleviate the issues they have regarding aging in place as they arise.
The first thing we had to deal with as my parents got older was how to handle the steps to get inside their home. The main area we needed for them to access was the area within the garage so that they could easily get to their vehicle. We had a specialized handicap ramp contractor come in and evaluate the area. He said that we needed to remove the steps going up into the house because they were incredibly steep. He then said that a metal ramp was the best fit for the area. It would be durable and offer extra grip for them to walk on it now and for walkers or wheelchairs later.
He also sold us on the handicap ramp for the front porch for safety reasons. For instance, if the garage were to catch on fire they would need another way to exit the house. The front porch would house a handicap ramp made from wood that would blend in to the existing landscaping. This would keep the neighbors happy and my parents safe.
We did more drastic changes to the areas in the house that needed them. We installed a chair lift for them to get into the basement. No one wants their elderly parent climbing the stairs. It was also important to remove the tub and toilet and add handicap accessible equipment throughout the bathroom. The extra railings would be beneficial for offer stability. We added a seat to the shower and a removable shower head for access to the shower even when help might not be around.
It was important to keep the memories around the house but to remove the clutter that canvassed the home. This was a bit harder as they saw this as ‘the end”. Instead I reminded them about the safety issues we were addressing and how the memories will live on even without every scrap of paper and such that recorded the event for them. I did remove the sharp end and coffee table sin the living area and replaced them with ones that were shaped like a circle. I would still worry about them falling just not hitting a sharp pointy end table.
When I looked into resources in our area I was shocked to find all types of senior benefits that were out there with a little work that I could find that would benefit them. A volunteer service is in the area that offers opportunities for volunteers to assist the elderly with yard maintenance and handyman services. This is helpful in keeping a bit of the autonomy they crave. My parents can call and schedule a volunteer to come out to help clean or maintain the house. This way they are not always relying on their children.
I am sure the handicap ramp and bathroom are just the start of many age in place remodels that will have to be done as my parents age. Hopefully for us, their children, they will continue to be mobile enough to get around unassisted and still have the zest they have now. It is funny because their bodies have definitely aged but I still see their minds working as if they were in their forties. They still give me a run for my money playing Euchre and Scrabble.