Aging In Place Design Checklist: How To Design Safe & Accessible Home
All over the world, the coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. To prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, the majority of us are staying at home. We’re also practicing social distancing when leaving our homes is absolutely necessary. For many seniors, however, leaving their long-term care facilities isn’t an option. This presents a scary scenario for many Canadians who have parents living in such homes.
Firstly, our elderly population is at a high risk of experiencing the ill effects of COVID-19. Secondly, many senior living facilities are experiencing high rates of infections. The combination of these facts is encouraging many Canadians to bring their elderly parents home. That way, they can safely and comfortably age in place.
As reported by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT), Canada’s 2016 census found that over 85 percent of aging seniors would prefer to age in place. The concept of staying in familiar residences to live out their lives is a welcome one to the majority of our elderly citizens. However, CAOT notes that many of their homes and communities lack the structural features and support services that make aging in place a safe and realistic option.
As a result, many Canadians with elderly parents are concerned. How can I make sure Mom and Dad are safe living here? What do I need to do to make their daily lives comfortable? These and other questions consume the minds of many people who aren’t quite sure if it is possible for their elderly loved ones to remain living in their homes. What are the appropriate steps to take in order to design a safe and accessible home for the elderly loved one in your life?
Consult with medical professionals to properly assess your parent’s needs.
Preparing your home for the purpose of having your elderly parent age in place is not a one-person job. Your best bet is to make your first step involve consulting a number of health professionals. Speak to your parent’s physician to ensure you are fully knowledgeable about any and all health concerns and/or physical ailments that will need to be addressed in your home. Full-fledged renovations may not be necessary. But certainly some changes will need to be made.
Consulting an occupational therapist (OT) is wise. After all, the primary objective of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the regular activities of everyday life. By speaking to an OT, you will receive some expert advice to help you assess the engagement of your elderly loved one in the everyday activities conducted in your home. Together, you can create a plan that will help your parent to stay at home in an environment optimized for his/her functioning, safety and independence.
Speak to a renovation expert about the design needs to accommodate safe aging in place
Who better to discuss designing a safe and accessible home than an expert in design? A renovation professional is an excellent resource when it comes to creating a living environment that is ideal for a senior who wishes to age in place. Naturally, “safety first” is the protocol when considering the changes to your home that need to be made. Most experts will begin by discussing the areas of the home that are considered the most dangerous. The kitchen comes to mind.
Ottawa’s Copperstone Kitchens & Renovations starts with the kitchen when detailing the most important renovations that make aging in place easy. They recommend drawers instead of shelves because they are easier to use and organize. Copperstone also suggests creating more under-the-counter space. Doing so enables users of walkers and wheelchairs to easily access what they need. In addition, their renovation experts champion the lowering of cabinets and counters and choosing counters that have rounded corners.
“Ever banged your arm, hip, or leg on the corner of a counter?” they ask, “For most of your adult life, you would have just let slip a bad word and walked it off. But as we age, little things like bruises and bumps can become much worse. By opting for rounded counters, you’ll eliminate those sharp corners and make your kitchen more user-friendly for kids as well as elders.”
Look into funding provided by the Government of Alberta
Naturally, you will have many caregiving responsibilities when you choose to have your elderly loved one live at home instead of in a long-term care facility. Of course, those responsibilities revolve around the health and safety of the senior in your home. So you have a few important questions to answer regarding that. Do I need to purchase any mobility solutions to assist with a disability? Do I need to perform any renovations to offer my parent greater accessibility to different parts of my home? What government assistance is available to me?
Luckily, the Government of Alberta does provide resources, programs and services to support those who wish to age in place. Among them are Seniors Financial Assistance programs like SHARP. SHARP stands for Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program. It is an excellent resource for seniors who wish to maintain their independence and live at home.
The program gives eligible seniors the ability to apply for low-interest home equity loans from the provincial government. The money can be used to cover repairs, adaptations and/or renovations to their primary residences. Thanks to SHARP, seniors in Alberta can afford the necessary changes that will help them remain safely independent in their homes. With improved accessibility, mobility and energy efficiency, elderly people can live comfortably in the places they are most familiar with.
The majority of people aged 65 and older will tell you that they would much prefer to spend their days in familiar surroundings. SHARP ensures your elderly loved one can have his/her needs more easily accommodated. Install a walk-in tub, upgrade your furnace or water tank, invest in a stair lift, widen your doorways or replace your windows – all of these home renovations and more can be accomplished with the help of SHARP.
“You must provide a written cost-estimate or receipts for all project funds being applied for,” the Government of Alberta explains of the SHARP application process, “Seniors may apply for retroactive funding. Receipts must be provided for home repairs, adaptations or renovations completed and paid for within 12 months before the date that SHARP staff receives your application package.”
Apply for the CRA’s disability tax credit
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers a disability tax credit. It enables Canadians with severe disabilities to receive non-refundable tax credits to help reduce the amount of income tax they have to pay each year. If your elderly loved one contends with a severe and prolonged impairment – either physically or mentally – that has or is expected to last at least 12 months, then he/she is likely eligible to receive this credit.
By utilizing the disability tax credit as a source of funding, you’ll be able to better afford such potential necessities as medication, renovations and home care services.
Safeguard your home as best you can
There are a few common sense rules of thumb when it comes to having an elderly loved one live in your home. As you know, adequate aging in place requires safe surroundings. Make a few simple, yet significant physical changes to your home in order to maximize the safety of the senior who dwells within it. For example, something as easy as removing all area rugs that aren’t affixed to the floor is a great way to eliminate potentially dangerous tripping hazards.
Consider replacing the handles on your doors and faucets with levers that are far easier for seniors to manage. The installation of grab bars in your bathroom is also a popular safety decision. Grab bars placed near toilets and in the tub or shower ensure that your elderly loved one will receive help with balance. These safety devices are widely known for preventing slips and falls.
Is installing a wheelchair ramp necessary? If your elderly parent requires the use of a mobility device such as a wheelchair, rollator or scooter, installing a ramp at the front door of your home may be in order. Be sure that the lighting in your home is more than adequate as well. Properly lit stairwells are especially important. Any measures that assist with preventing highly dangerous tumbles are worth taking.
Consider essential home care supportive services
At Senior Homecare by Angels, it is our mandate to help seniors remain independent at home. Especially during this incredibly trying time, we know how concerned caregivers are of their elderly parents. It is important to us to communicate that our team is here for you. We’re readily available to answer any questions you may have about the home care services we provide. We have many years of experience making aging in place so much easier for our clients’ elderly moms and dads.
We’re happy to report that you don’t have to be rich in order to receive the assistance of one of our experienced Angels.
We offer a full array of services including Dementia and Alzheimer’s supportive services and we provide coverage from 4 hours daily up to 24 hours per day.
To help you to learn more about these services, we offer consultations at no charge. It is a key part of the process to guarantee your loved one is getting the best solution for his/her aging in place needs. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to call Senior Homecare by Angels at 403-862-0129 or if outside of Calgary, toll-free at 1-877-209-6142. You may also Contact Us page to complete and submit a simple contact form!
Gerry Gatto is a trained health care administrator and the owner of Senior Homecare® By Angels a Calgary – based company. Helping Calgary seniors remain in their homes and maintain their independence with the assistance of a dedicated caregiver.