Safely Ageing at Home: Practical Home Renovations as You Grow Older
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Research confirms that most Australians strongly prefer to grow old in their own homes. The preference even has a term, it's called "ageing in place".
Last week's blog highlighted recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety research showing the majority of Australians would prefer to remain independent and living in their own home.
A 2015 Australian Government Productivity Commission Report delved further and found that "most Australians are happy staying in their family home despite the common perception that such houses are too big for them".
To accommodate this preference, the Federal Government is investing more resources into its subsided in-home care. A more streamlined system of care will be announced in the near future.
Preparing Your Home For Ageing In Place
In the meantime, many Australians are preparing their homes for their older years and we have been advising clients on home renovations that will help ensure their mobility and safety as they age.
Listed below are some basics you can attend to.
This is possibly the most hazardous area of the home for slips and falls. For safety, consider:
Replacing the bath with a larger shower recess. Ensure the shower recess can accommodate a shower chair, there is no shower entry curb (hob), and non-slip shower flooring is in place.
Replacing cold and hard ceramic floor tiles with a softer, non-slip surface.
Comfort-height toilets or install a bidet.
Shower grab rails.
Hand-held showerheads for more flexibility when using the shower chair.
Ceiling heating is highly recommended in the bathroom area particularly for those living with dementia, it makes the experience more palatable.
It is ideal to have at least one entry into the home that does not involve a step. Consider installing a ramp. As for internal stairs, there's the expensive option of a chair lift or elevator (if there is room) or the less expensive option of combining your essential rooms to your ground floor.
Remove ceramic, terrazzo and slate floors throughout your home. They are unforgiving on falls, and prolonged standing on these surfaces is no good for your hips, ankles and lower back. Instead, consider introducing vinyl, linoleum, softwood or cork flooring.
Remove all rugs no matter how lovely they look. They are a trip hazard. De-clutter and remove excess furniture particularly for those with ‘wheelie walkers’. Ensure that the pathway is clear from the dining room to lounge chairs to the bathroom and the bedroom.
Make sure there is a consistent surface in your flooring, with say transition strips from a carpeted room to a softwood room flush. A difference of 1 cm or less is considered a hazard.
Lever-style doorknobs are easier to grip than round doorknobs, and they don't require twisting the wrist.
By our mid-60s, our eyes need twice as much light than in our 20s. So lighten up the home with stronger lighting and skylights. Install illuminated light switches and, for hallways, put in place plug-in lights or motion-activated lights. Remember that darkened spaces are ominous and confronting for people living with dementia.
Have your electrician replace all your incandescent lights with LED lights. LED bulbs last 50 times longer and they avoid the dangers of you regularly replacing incandescent bulbs.
Major appliances these days offer many safeguards. Install a raised oven and dishwasher to avoid bending. Consider a fridge with a bottom mounted freezer, an induction stove top, and an automatic stove turn off device. Ensure the microwave is bench height and not above the person’s heads (to prevent spills / burns).
Clear the excess throughout
As outlined above in flooring, remove unnecessary furniture and rugs and make sure there is plenty of space to move around. Take the same initiative outside and clear your pathways, trim interfering shrubs, and make sure the path is an even surface.
If plans for a major renovation are underway, make sure your doorways are at least 36 inches (1 metre) in width to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
Getting It Right
If you're weighing up your residential options for retirement or if you are considering your last major renovation, please feel free to call on me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to plan for your care needs into the future.
DR Care Solutions is an independent aged care and disability care consultancy service, offering expertise on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.