Adapting Your Home When an Elderly Parent is Moving In

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Whether it's a stroke, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, low vision, or simply old age, eventually everyone reaches a time in their lives where they need to rely on someone to help take care of them. Depending on their specific situation, that could mean moving into a retirement community or moving in with a loved one. Either destination can be a big change for the retiree, but when they move in with you, it can be a stressful change of lifestyle for both parties.

Let's be honest: when we care deeply for our elderly loved ones, we want to make sure they are taken care of. If that means them moving in with us, then so be it. For many, the idea of sticking them in a retirement community to live out the rest of their days means watching daytime television, consuming Jell-O by the gallon, and trying to tell an orderly who doesn't speak English that they need to use the restroom. These are all misconceptions - planned living communities really are not so bad!

However, many people still do not consider that to be an option. But in the back of everyone's mind, they also think of how an elderly relative moving in disrupts your life. For the seniors, they do not wish to be a burden on their loved ones. They do not want to feel as though someone is obligated to take care of them and they like the ability to do everyday living tasks without any assistance. For you, the caregiver, the idea of having someone else to take care of can leave you apprehensive due to your lack of knowledge or experience. You may be concerned about the appearance of you home and how it may change when an elderly or disabled person moves in, but at the same time feel lost or bad about exploring other alternatives.

Fortunately, manufacturers of independent living products have developed items that are beneficial to both parties. Products that allow seniors to handle everyday living without the need for assistance are also being designed to look less clinical and not require a permanent installation. With the right independent living products, seniors maintain an independent and safe lifestyle while you feel less burdened and your house retains its normal appearance.

Bathroom Safety — Preventing Falls Makes Everyone Happier

As we get older and our legs, arms, and hands begin to weaken, the bathroom can be the most dangerous room in the house. Bathrooms combine moisture and linoleum floors, and rarely give you a soft surface to land on if you fall. Getting on and off the toilet or getting in and out of the tub can put an elderly person at serious risk.

To get on and off the toilet, doctors recommend an elevated toilet seat with armrests. While there are models that can be clamped in place and do not require any hardware, they are typically not very sturdy, especially if the person using it is overweight. Combining the seat and arms with a hydraulic lifting system for extra assistance, an ergonomic airlift bedside commode is easy to install and can be used as both a raised toilet seat and a stand alone commode. A bracket is attached to the toilet using two bolts once the existing seat is removed. It slides and locks into place on the bracket and, by simply lifting a lever in the back of the seat, it can be removed for cleaning or to be attached to the stand alone commode frame. Hydraulic struts mounted in the seat provide an additional boost to help your new house guest gently lower down onto your toilet, and get off the toilet, and can be adjusted depending on their weight. An airlift bedside commode features a large, comfortable seating surface and ergonomically designed armrests, and includes a "guest seat" standard toilet seat. The guest seat can be mounted in place of the airLlft using the same bracket and is ideal for when you have company over.

To get in and out of the shower or bathtub, grab bars are essential for safety. When most people think of bathroom grab bars, the first things that come to mind are a handyman, a big power drill, and permanent holes in your marble or tile. Thanks to portable suction grab bars and an ergonomic grab bar with an armrest, you can provide your loved ones with a medically safe, sturdy, and completely portable way to steady themselves when getting in and out of the tub. The suction grab bars secure themselves to completely smooth surfaces using twin suction cups with over 160 pounds of force. Simply clean the surface, apply the suction cups firmly, and flip the levers on the back of each cup. While these are not recommended for pull ups, gymnastics, or hanging a basketball hoop, they will provide a safe, reliable grip to prevent falls. Some brands are not safe, so be careful what you choose! Portable suction grab bars are available in four sizes and typically range in price from $65 to $140, which is significantly less than the cost of a handyman with a big drill. Brands priced less than $65 tend to lose their suction and are hazardous to use.

Mobility Products — Get Up, Get Down, Move Around

If your home has a step or threshold at the entryway, it can make getting in and out the door difficult for your new house guest. Since getting rid of the threshold is out of the question, and escalators are expensive to install, a threshold ramp is the easiest, safest, and most cost effective solution. The EZ Access Rubber Threshold Ramp is an affordable ramp that is not clinical-looking, does not make noise like metal, and does not require a handyman with a drill to install. Simply cut the threshold ramp to the desired length and width and lay it up against the threshold. It does not require any sort of permanent installation and can be moved out of the way when desired.

If your loved one does not have a walker right now, chances are they will need one at some point, or they need one now and just don't know it. Whether they need a walker for use in the house, on the go, or both, the Dana Douglas Nexus III Rollator Walker is the most versatile and easy-to-use model available. The lightweight aluminum frame uses a scissor-style mechanism to fold vertically as opposed to horizontally, making it easier to fold flat and allowing it to be rolled through narrow spaces with ease. The large wheels roll over most terrain and threshold ramps with ease while the padded seat and backrest gives them a place to rest if needed. Best of all, the brakes are cable-free so they do not require any maintenance and will not get caught on anything in your house. While they may be opposed to the idea of a walker ("I'm not that old"), and may think they do not need one, seniors will find that walkers are a great precaution against falls in the home and a good way to help keep them active.

Hip surgery, knee surgery, and arthritis can make getting in and out of a recliner or living room chair difficult. Rather than have to help your loved one up or risk them straining to the point of an arm or shoulder injury, the Pride Lift Chair is a great way to enable them to sit down or stand up with ease. At first glance Pride Lift Chairs appear to be standard recliners; but with the flip of a switch, the chair's powerful integrated motor comfortably reclines the chair or lifts the occupant out of it. The motor is very quiet, operates smoothly, and has an optional battery backup for power outages. Pride Lift Chairs are available in an assortment of styles, fabrics, and colors so they can match virtually any room design and can fit people of almost all sizes.

Bedroom Products to Help Keep the Elderly Safe

Everyone loves their privacy, but if your elderly loved one needs help getting in and out of bed, has problems staying in bed, or is difficult to wake up when needed, privacy can become a thing of the past. With the right independent living products, however, seniors can go about their normal morning and evening routine with little help at all.

Whether the issue is getting in and out of bed, or just staying in bed, a variety of easy-to-install bed rails are available to help with each consumer's individual needs. If the issue is staying in bed at night, the Standers EZ Adjust Bed Rail is the ideal choice. Easy to install and even easier to use, the EZ Adjust Bed Rail can be adjusted to three different lengths (26", 32", and 42") and folds down when not needed.

If they need help getting in and out of bed, two bed rails are available that are easy to install and very versatile. The BedCane Bed Rail features a padded, cane-shaped top attached to a board that slides between the mattress and box spring. A strap attaches to the bed frame to hold the board in place and an included four-pocket organizer keeps useful items at hand. The Smart Rail System Bed Rail installs on the bed in a similar fashion, but also features two legs that rest on the floor for additional support. The padded handle can be rotated outwards at any angle to make getting in and out of bed easier. Unlike other rails of this nature that swing at set increments, the Smart Rail's unlimited rotating ability insures that your loved one gets the ideal angle for support without putting too much strain on your wrist.

Is it time to wake up? If they are a heavy sleeper or cannot hear well, chances are that a gentle knock at the door or that alarm clock that they have had since the first George Bush was president will probably not do the job. The Sonic Boom Alarm Clock series features alarm clocks in a variety of styles with different features designed to keep any heavy sleeper from sleeping through their alarm. Each one includes a bed shaker which, when placed under the mattress, shakes enough to wake the heaviest sleepers and send most California residents running for shelter. The tone volume can be adjusted between "subtle" and "wake the neighbors" and is available with or without an AM/FM radio. The Sonic Boom line of alarm clocks also feature a battery backup for power outages, a snooze button (no one knows why a heavy sleeper would need that), and large digital or analog displays. Some of the clocks are also designed to work with other Sonic Alert devices to notify them when the phone or doorbell rings and to use a flashing lamp as a signal.

Independent Living Products Provide Peace of Mind

When an elderly person has to move in with you, regardless of whether you are their child or grandchild, the sudden change can be difficult for both parties involved. Whether it's a matter of your loved one giving up their independent lifestyle or you experiencing a big change in your home, the situation can be stressful.

However, with the right independent living products, you can keep your house relatively unchanged while your loved one maintains an active, safe, and independent lifestyle.


Richard Chandler researches innovative new healthcare devices, medical supplies, and mobility aids for ActiveForever.

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5 Comments

I am the live-in primary caregiver for my 94-year-old grandmother and she is a major fall risk. Her knees are in horrible shape and will sometimes lock when she isn't fully standing and, if she doesn't have a bed or chair behind her, she ends up falling to the floor. It's a miracle that she hasn't broken any bones at her age, but I am constantly worried about it and I stay awake all night and sit outside her bedroom to listen for her to wake up to use the potty. Then I run in and help her get there and back in bed because she's also prone to falling when she first wakes up.

I ordered the Bedcane mentioned in this article and just installed a few days ago. I am thoroughly impressed and pleased with the product! It helps her stand up, lower herself down into the bed and she can use it push herself up in the bed if she wants her head higher on the pillows. It also has multiple pockets for her remotes, glasses and she uses for Chapstick and Kleenex which she uses during the night. I paid less than $70 delievered and I recommend it to anyone who has any trouble getting up or down from the bed.

The cane is mounted on a piece of wood that's roughly 2'x4' and it slides under the mattress but on top of the box springs. Then it has a very strong nylon strap that will reach the frame rail on the opposite side of the bed. You loop one side of the strap over the rail and the other one under it, pull it as tight as you can and it holds the Bedcane firmly in place!
Are there funds available for improving a home that my elderly mom already lives in with my sister?