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Give your senior mom a home makeover this Mother’s Day

May 8th, 2008 · No Comments · Special Section

Submitted by
Home Instead Senior Care

There’s no doubt where seniors want to live as they age. The majority of seniors polled in recent industry surveys say they want to stay at home. But is “home” an accident waiting to happen?
“Adult children worry about their aging parents’ ability to live on their own and, it’s a legitimate fear,” says Debbie Teofilo, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Long Beach, whose professional caregivers provide non-medical, in-home care and companionship to seniors in Greater Long Beach and Seal Beach areas. “Many seniors and their families don’t think about the fact that homes must adapt to the changing needs of seniors as they age until there’s an accident.”
“There is a number of potential pitfalls in a home,” she says. “They run the gamut from accessibility to lighting to trip-and-fall hazards. We see many problems during the home-safety reviews we conduct for clients,” said Teofilo. “We check 50 different items throughout a home including the entrance, living areas, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and stairways.”
For as many problems as there might be, there are just as many solutions and most are simple and inexpensive, experts say. Convincing seniors, on the other hand, is another story.
Dr. Danise Levine, assistant director of the IDEA Center at the SUNY (State University of New York) Buffalo School of Architecture, said that denial often comes into play with seniors.
“We see a lot of seniors who don’t want to admit they’re getting older so they don’t want to make changes in their homes,” Levine said. “Secondly, consumer education is an issue. If older adults do need help, they often don’t know where to go or how much things cost.”
Those issues can result in seniors adapting behavior to their environment, creating potentially dangerous situations, said Levine, whose IDEA Center is dedicated to improving the design of environments and products by making them more usable.
Unfortunately, many home-makeover changes are responsive rather than proactive, noted Peter Bell, president of the National Aging in Place Council, a Washington-based advocacy group dedicated to helping seniors remain at home.
“Too often changes aren’t made until someone has had a stroke or other type of condition that begins to impair their mobility,” Bell said. “It’s a shame, too, because that’s a difficult time to be making a renovation.”
Bell said that it’s important for a senior-care professional to conduct a home review to identify various safety pitfalls, from poor lighting to the need for adaptive devices in a home.
While many fixes are simple and inexpensive, others might involve a remodeling project to help a senior remain at home.
“That first, important step is to make an objective evaluation of what needs to be done to keep them at home,” Debbie Teofilo said. “It’s one of the most important services that we provide.”

Senior Home Safety Review and Checklist

√ Examine dark pathways, corners and other areas where seniors regularly walk or read. Make sure all areas of the home have adequate lighting. Timed and motion-sensor lights outdoors can illuminate potentially dangerous pathways. Inside, consider task lighting for reading, crafts and other detail work – as well as ensuring that hallways and stairs are properly lit.
√ Avoid monochromatic color schemes. Contrast can help seniors with failing eyesight better navigate their homes. Large red and blue buttons over hot and cold water faucet controls will help prevent dangerous mistakes. A dark green or brown toilet seat and vinyl tape around the shower will make those fixtures more easily distinguished. Kitchen countertops should contrast with floors as well.
√ Look for ways to reorganize. Mom always put the black stew pot under the stove to keep the kids from breaking it. Perhaps now it belongs on a shelf beside the stove. And who says the eggs must go in the egg tray of the refrigerator? Perhaps it’s easier for dad to handle them if they’re stored in the meat tray. If that hallway table, which has always been a permanent fixture, is becoming a dangerous obstacle, relocate it.
√ Look behind closed doors. Many seniors will close off parts of a house they no longer use. Be sure to check those areas regularly for mold or water damage.
√ Look for ways to simplify your senior’s life. Talk to your parents about why and how they do things, and then look for ways to simplify their lives. If your Mom’s immaculate floors are now regularly dirty, think about how she’s been doing that job all these years and offer options.
√ Rather than a heavy mop and bucket, investigate light-weight, all-in-one mops. If your senior is replacing appliances, look for smooth-top stoves and refrigerators with water and ice on the outside. Change door knobs to levers or purchase grips that can go on conventional knobs. Convert single-bulb light fixtures to multiple bulbs so seniors still have light when one bulb burns out.
√ Consider security. Think about the potential dangers that lurk within your loved one’s home. Lock-in switches on thermostats and stoves will keep seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease from harming themselves. Help them manage in their environment by installing a cordless intercom.
√ Keep an eye out for damage. Watch for signs that a senior is adapting his or her behavior to the environment. Look for towel bars or window sills that are pulling away or shower curtains that have torn from seniors grabbing onto them.
√ Look for ways to make entries safe. Make sure that railings into a home are in good repair and that steps and sidewalks are not damaged. Or eliminate steps altogether. Make sure that doors into a home can be set to stay open for carrying groceries and other items in and out. Install remote control locks.
√ Is clutter taking over? Messy conditions and broken items are important warning signs. Remove area rugs and stacks of newspapers and magazines or other potential obstacles.
√ Consider outside help. Call on a professional in-home senior care service that can provide thorough safety assessments and serve as a second set of eyes for older adults.

Cheap Fixes: What can be done for your senior mom for $500 or less

• Raised toilet seats with arms that lock onto an existing toilet provide height and support to stand. * $90
• Hand-held shower nozzles slip directly over a tub faucet. * $24
• Super Pole Super Bar provides assistance to those requiring extra stability when standing or transferring their weight. The Super Bar mounts on the Super Pole, offering horizontal and vertical support. The device can be used throughout the house. * $250
• Lever doorknob turner adapters attach securely to a variety of round door knobs to provide leverage for easy opening. * $22
• Lever handles can be purchased that extend recliner chair handles. * $22
• Various kitchen items are available including automatic openers that remove lids and open cans, jars and bottles. * $50
• Rubber ramps that are ADA compliant are often easy to install to most surfaces using an adhesive such as Liquid Nails. The ramp stays in place by its sheer weight and can be moved from one opening to another. * $36
For more information about the company’s 50-item home checklist, contact Home Instead’s Linda Kelly at (562) 596-4884 or visit www.homeinstead.com/275.

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