Aids for Elderly In The Home
Home modifications are all about making life easier for you in your own home, regardless of age or abilities. There are many simple modifications and aids for elderly in the home, as well as aids for disabled persons – whether you’re dealing with a temporary disability or a long term disability – and for those who want to age-in-place independently and safely.
What are Home Modifications?
Home modifications are defined well by Wikipedia as “environmental interventions aiming to support activity performance in the home. More specifically, home modifications often are changes made to the home environment to help people with functional disability or impairment to be more independent and safe in their own homes and reduce any risk of injury to themselves or their caregivers.”
Home modifications can range from really simple solutions like having the perfect jar opener, to installing grab bars, to designing a whole new home with universal design concepts. They can also range greatly in cost – from free or very low cost, to hundreds of thousands of dollars if you’re building a custom universal design home from scratch.
It really depends on your situation and what would make your life easier. The key is to accurately assess your current abilities, plan for future abilities, then find creative ways to make your home fit you.
You’re not the problem, your environment is. And you can fix it.
Through this website, we’ll help you find those creative and simple ways to change your environment to fit your specific needs.
The focus is on safety, independence, visitability, and quality of life.
Why are Home Modifications Important?
Improved Quality of Life – Modifications that make your life easier will improve your overall quality of life. Making an everyday task less stressful by taking away something that frustrates you is a good thing. For example, imagine you are recovering from knee surgery and had to ask someone for help every time you went into the bathtub or shower. With some simple home modifications, you could handle that daily task independently. There are many aids for elderly in the home that can make tasks easier.
Safety – Every year there are millions of people aged 65 and over who fall in their home, according to the CDC. And, falling once actually doubles your chances of falling again! In the U.S., more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Read our Fall Prevention Tips. You will improve your safety at any age by having the correct daily living and mobility aids, and ensuring your home environment is as safe as possible.
Who Benefits from Adapting Their Environment?
- Baby Boomers planning for the future
- Older adults who want to age in place
- Adults with a short-term or long term disability
- Families who have children with disabilities
- People of all ages and abilities
Examples of Home Modifications
- Improving lighting
- Removing hazards
- Changing where activities occur
- Adding grab bars & handrails
- Slip-resistant flooring
- Kitchen aids (jar openers, special cutting boards)
- Smart home devices
- Bathroom aids (raised toilet seats, bath & shower benches, modified faucets, handheld showers)
- Wheelchair ramps and scooter ramps
- Lifts – stair, bath, independent
- Home renovations – wider doorways, accessible bathrooms & kitchens
- Lever door handles
- Raised garden beds
- Car & RV assistive devices
How Home Modifications Helped Me
One day I was putting glasses away in the kitchen, and I reached up and over at an angle higher than I normally would because there was something on the counter that was in my way.
I felt something shift in my left shoulder, and then heard a slight cracking noise – kind of like when your neck or back cracks.
Nothing really hurt and I didn’t think any more about it until two days later when I woke up with a slight pain in that shoulder. Thinking I slept on it wrong, I just went about my day.
The next morning, I woke up in moderate pain. Enough pain to make me go to urgent care. The doctor took x-rays and gave me a short-lasting cortisone shot with an anesthetic that lasted a couple of hours. He also gave me a sling to wear and told me to come back if it still bothered me in a week, ice it and take Advil.
Two days later I woke up in severe pain. Seriously – I’ve never been in so much pain in my entire life. I got out of bed, crying, and iced it, took more Advil, and headed to a drop-in appointment at an ortho specialty center.
After another look at the x-rays, they told me I had a small, non-operable tear in my rotator cuff, bursitis, arthritis, and tendonitis. Great. Any other “itis” you want to throw in there? All from reaching over incorrectly! Really?
They gave me a longer-lasting cortisone shot, said keep it iced and in the sling for a couple of weeks, then start to do some shoulder exercises. And don’t lift anything more than 1 lb.
Well, as a contractor and nurse, you can probably guess what happened. I couldn’t work. I also couldn’t function very well around the house with only one arm.
You take a lot of things for granted when you are not ill, injured, disabled or in chronic pain. With the shoulder injury, the simplest everyday tasks turned into challenging and painful chores.
Simple things like trying to cut a lemon in half – it wouldn’t stay in place on the cutting board and I almost ended up cutting myself in the process! Opening jars? Forget it. Getting dressed? Challenging and painful. Luckily I didn’t really have to go anywhere and could stay in my sweats.
I could barely shower, couldn’t hold a bottle of shampoo since I buy the industrial size, washing my hair with one hand was tough, and there’s no way I could hold the hair dryer along with my brush to dry and style my hair like I usually did. Those of you with long, curly hair can empathize.
After about a week, I rigged this – I wrapped my hair dryer cord around the towel holder a few times and secured it with a bungee cord, MacGyver style – home modification #1:
While not pretty, it worked. I just turned it on and was able to lean over in front of it, hold the brush in my good hand, and proceed with drying and styling (sort-of). Yay! Progress!
Sometimes you have to get creative and figure out what’s going to work for you in that particular moment – this is where home modifications come in.
It’s best to look at home modifications in a preventive way and plan for what might happen ahead of time, instead of trying to adapt your environment on-the-fly in crisis mode. Good luck finding a competent contractor when you need one asap.
While I help senior clients every day figure out what will help them remain independent and safe at home, I didn’t really think seriously about planning for myself until this happened. I’m on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation and figured I had some time.
People don’t usually think of themselves as elderly or disabled; there’s always someone else who is older, or more disabled, right?
Of course, we never think it will happen to us. Reality check time!
Here are some simple home and bathroom modifications for disabled persons that really helped me during this whole shoulder injury ordeal:
- The upside-down hair dryer – here’s a real hands-free wall-mounted hair dryer holder that I should have gotten instead
- One-handed vise & cutting board – awesome invention!
- Shower dispenser similar to this one
- Easy off jar opener – one-handed jar opener
- An ice pack with a strap – my other arm got really tired of holding the ice pack all the time and limited activities I could do. Pro Tip: Get 2 so you always have a cold one ready!
I’ve got some work ahead of me to make my home a little more prepared for what the future may bring. Luckily for me, the previous homeowners here were thinking ahead. This house was designed with wide doorways and open spaces throughout, wheelchair accessible entry from the garage, lower accessible cabinets in the kitchen for when I can’t (or shouldn’t) reach overhead anymore, shower dispensers in every bathroom, D-shaped cabinet hardware for easier grasping, and levers on every door instead of round or press handles.
These simple aids for elderly in the home (and for those who over-extend their reach, like me) will go a long way to keep me safe, comfortable, and independent in the coming years.
Fast forward a few months later. The shoulder still isn’t healed and is sometimes painful (though not nearly as much), I still can’t do regular contractor work, and I’ve put more stress from overuse on my other shoulder which is now starting to hurt. But, we’ve got to keep calm and carry on! Right? It could have been worse.
I plan to start soon on more preventive home and car modifications so that I’m as ready as possible for any future injury, surgery or health changes, and have made my To-Do list. You might want to think about doing that too. Please use this website to help guide you throughout your home modifications journey. We want to make life easier for you!
Oh, yeah. Another Pro Tip: If you have something on the counter that’s in your way – just move it! 😉
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Please visit our Shop and check out our Blog for more information on which home modifications and assistive technology devices would work for you.