By Kaye Swain
I wrote about bathroom "aging in place options" in Part 1. Today I wanted to tackle some other parts of the house -inside and out.
My mom is still able to walk around so we are not in need of this right now. But when my dad was using a walker and then had to graduate to a wheelchair, we had to make sure the hallways and rooms of the new home were wide enough to use it successfully. We made sure to install wide enough sidewalks in the new back yard so that he could enjoy rolling around there when he felt up to it. We we so blessed by doing that, as he enjoyed several opportunities to spend time outside in back with his first great-grandchild, helping her in the swing after he had me tie a rope to her swing and give him the other end. I still treasure the look of joy on his face as he got to do that.
Of course, it's also vital to keep the areas clear in the house where they will be going so they don't get stuck on a stuffed animal or running into a couch that needs to be rearranged to allow easy travel with a wheelchair.
If my senior mom ever does have to graduate to a walker or wheelchair, that ramp will definitely have to be added to our front door. We discovered with my dad that there are "temporary placement" ramps that you can screw into your threshold allowing you to have a ramp when it's needed. Once you no longer need it, you can remove it easily. I still have those ramps in storage for future issues.
I was chatting with one of my real estate clients this week and she told me about her refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom. Her elderly dad was able to reach items in both fridge and freezer from his wheelchair. We had a side by side refrigerator/freezer when I had that broken ankle. I would use my dad's old wheelchair to make simple meals in the kitchen. I was also able to reach things easily from the side by side. As you can imagine, a top freezer would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach from a wheelchair.
Rearranging dishes and glasses to put them in the cupboards below instead of above can also be a big help. We did this when the grandkids were little to enable them to get items themselves. It's a grand help for both ends of the aging spectrum.
Sleep - Think outside the box
As our elderly parents age, sleeping can become more problematic for them. Particularly after one or more surgeries dealing with hips, backs, etc. or when they are dealing with an extremely debilitating disease that makes movement very difficult. When my dad was in hospice due to his advanced Parkinsons Disease, they had us rent an electric hospital bed along with an air pad to make it more comfortable for him. Its ability to go up and down made it so much easier for us to help him in and out of bed. And the head and feet options for going up and down helped him to get more comfortable in different positions even though he could barely move.
My senior mom has always been a side sleeper but after two hip surgeries she can't get comfortable on either side. She opted for an electric recliner (like the one above) which enables her to sleep comfortably on her back at night, and sit happily during the day. We checked with the doctor first who gave her a big thumbs up.
It's wonderful to have different options to help them, isnt it? Just be sure to have a good supply of the backup batteries needed for this type of chair. In our case, it's those square 9-volt batteries and they came in very handy when we were without power for a few hours last week!
These are just some of the basic things we have come up with through the years to make aging at home a practical reality as long as possible for my senior parents. How about you? Do you have more ideas? We'd love to hear them!