Home can be a dangerous place to those with difficulty getting around or with little sense of danger. It’s well-known that if you have children you should lock away your cleaning products and put harmful objects such as knives out of reach, but when it comes to infirm or frail adults we don’t usually think of these simple measures.
For those with disabilities or who are moving into old age, it’s often the case that a nursing home is the obvious care solution. However, with a few modifications an existing home can provide a safe environment for many years. This not only saves on care home fees, it also allows people to live independently for longer – something many people would prefer to do.
One of the most common problems many frail people have is managing their stairs. Thankfully there are two very simple solutions – either installing a stairlift or simply moving the accommodation downstairs. Many houses have a second reception room that can be turned into a bedroom, or a downstairs bathroom that can be enlarged. Alternatively, a stairlift gives access to the upstairs and may be the cheaper option, especially if the downstairs accommodation isn’t large.
Baths often become difficult to use, as do showers that are over baths. A separate shower or walk-in-bath will solve this problem. Ensure that everything within the bathroom is easy-to-reach, and the underfoot surfaces are non-slip. A seat within the shower may be the only modification required.
Many homes have outside steps leading from the front door to a driveway or garden. These can be turned into a ramp for wheelchair users, or a simple handrail can be installed for those who just need something to hold onto. This allows safe access into and out of the house and is a great help to many elderly people.
For the visually impaired, high visibility signs can be used around the house to help people find what they’re looking for. These can be combined with handrails if necessary. As vision fails high contrast is needed to pick out objects so signs with this feature are invaluable in labelling cupboards and other areas of the home. Implementing an easy-to-remember scheme may also be a good idea. For example, always ensure that vegetables are stored in the same place, or that medications have their own cupboard.
Finally, one of the greatest helps to people who wish to stay in their home is a service like cleaning or shopping. So many people have a cleaner because they don’t have time to do it themselves, but imagine not being able to even if you did have the time. Arranging for a cleaner once a week and someone to help with the shopping makes sure that important tasks are taken care of. The standard of living will remain good even when a frail resident can’t perform these tasks alone.
All these simple modifications can help someone stay in their own home for many years to come, have a good quality of life and remain in the surroundings they love.
Sylvia Kittens lives in Harrogate, England