As our loved ones age, we tend to worry more about their care and well-being. Often, we start offering to drive them places, check in on their well-being more often, purchase them food or offer to cook for them, and other ways of giving a little bit back to those who gave so much to us. However, one of the biggest problems that face the 40-million Americans over the age of 65 is the state of their own homes.
From monitoring maintenance to correcting major issues with a home, there are a lot of improvements that can be made to optimize your loved one’s living environment. Taking care of a loved one can be taxing, so worrying that their own home may cause them injury is an added stress you don’t need. That’s why we have curated a guide to help you identify problem areas in your family member’s home as well as find ways to alter their property so they can remain safely independent for as long as possible.
Check the Home for Pests
Before you start cleaning, repairing, and building, you should allow professional exterminators to assess the property for infestations or structural damage. There are dozens of different pests that may pop up in their examination and quite a few of those can spell real trouble for your loved one. Here are some of the most dangerous pests that might be hiding in the home:
- Fleas and ticks
- Bed bugs
Roaches are one of the most widely hated pests in the world. Once they get into a home they can seem almost impossible to remove without the help of a professional. They contaminate food items and water sources with their feces and can carry multiple diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
Rodents are particularly destructive because they contaminate and destroy food along with other items in the home like furniture, paper products, wires, and more. Some rodents can carry diseases and their feces and urine can trigger asthma in the elderly.
Rodents are particularly pesky pests because they can squeeze into the smallest of holes in your home. Any larger cracks in your foundation, holes in your siding, or gaps in your garage have the potential to let in any number of mice looking for warmth and food. Your best bet is to rely on an exterminator to discover those points of entry. They have the necessary tools to fill the gaps, plug the holes, and catch any current pests you have invading your property.
But pest control companies can’t do it all. If a project is too big, they might recommend that you contact a contractor to get the necessary repairs done. This is a particularly common problem on the east coast where hurricanes cause water damage and mold growth. If you’re experiencing issues with your home’s roofing or siding, relying on the pros to outfit your home with updated materials is essential.
3. Fleas and Ticks
Preventing or removing fleas and ticks from a home is good for taking care of a loved one and their pets. Flea bites can quickly become infected when scratched which can lead to seriously health issues. Ticks cause the same issue but also have the added detriment of carrying serious diseases.
4. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are devastating because they are so good at hiding. Once an infestation gets big enough there may be no choice but to replace most pieces of furniture like beds, couches, pillows, and more. Catching them early is the best shot at fully removing the bed time blood suckers.
Termites are less of a nuisance to the people living in a home, but are disastrous to the home itself. The little wood munchers multiply quickly and can destroy the structure of a home in just a few months time.
Make a Plan for Maintenance and Upkeep
The idea of regularly cleaning the house as a way of taking care of a loved one doesn’t seem like a big task. However, regular home maintenance involves a lot more than picking up trash and doing dishes. Preplanning for the types of home care your family member will need and creating a schedule is key to success. Here are a few areas you may want to consider while planning.
Many people hear lawn maintenance and think about mowing and weed eating. However, there are other areas you should consider when taking care of a loved one.
Look at the trees. Do they need trimmed back to avoid branches falling and causing damage? If so, you may want to research tree cutting methods to learn if it is a job you can take on alone.
Other areas to look at are gutters, weather stripping, roof integrity, and more. Also take a walk around the property and look for suspicious areas of standing water, which might indicate there is a leak or other plumbing issue lurking about.
Keeping a home clean is important for the health of an elderly person. Taking care of a loved one and their home may feel like a small gesture, but your actions are preventing the build up of lung damaging dusts, molds, and mildews that can dramatically affect the health of those in the home.
When it comes to cleaning, don’t forget to clean air filters and wall vents. If you are having difficulty accessing the vents, try calling local a HVAC service to see if they can offer some advice or an in-home visit.
Once you have an all clear from the pest control company and the home is nice and clean, you will want to begin repairing basic issues around the home.
First, you will want to take a look under counters and behind the washing machine to insure there are no leaks. If you see any issues, check out local plumbing services immediately. Ignored leaks and standing water can cause major structural damage in no time at all.
Aside from the plumbing, be certain to check gas lines and HVAC systems for full functionality and no signs of danger. This is especially important for seniors with lessened senses who may not be able to smell a gas leak.
If there is damage to the floors and ceilings in the home, these issues should be addressed quickly. Sinking or warped floors can cause falls and stumbles that may end with serious injury. Similarly, damaged ceilings can pose a risk due to falling materials. This type of damage is also a clue that there might be issues with your roof as well. If you believe the integrity of the roof is compromised, contact some local roof repair companies for advice.
Make the House Work for Them
Most elderly individuals want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. While this is a great way to improve quality of life, the problem is many homes are not properly equipped to benefit individuals with physical limitations. Luckily, there are a few interesting home addons that can assist you in taking care of a loved one. Before installing any structural items to the home, remember to contact your local government to aid in compliance planning.
One of the most common additions to an elderly-centered home is the entryway ramp. This is great for those using a wheelchair and walker, but is also useful for those with generally weakened strength. The removal of the need to step precisely up onto a stair lowers the cahnce of falling, and if a fall does happen, it will be less damaging to slide down the ramp than to tumble down the stairs.
Stair Lifts and Elevators
Multi-leveled homes are beautiful, but not very conducive to independent living for the elderly. Instead of letting the top floors go unused, consider installing a stair lift or a shaftless elevator.
A stair lift is a custom seat that is attached to the railing of the stairs. It is bound to a conveyer belt type system and slowly lifts and individual to the top of the stair case. This is a fairly cost-efficient option, but some homeowners find the lifes gaudy and difficult for wheelchair users.
A more advanced option is to install residential lifts.
These lifts are essentially elevators that can take a person up and down the floors of their home. They require far more planning and professional installation, but there is truly no better way to help your loved one move through the floors of their home without fear of falling.
Installing grip rails in all bathrooms and near beds is a must-do when taking care of a loved one. These bars can be purchased in many different colors to match decor and create a sturdy area for the user to grasp while pulling themselves up from a seating position. They are also great for installing in a shower to make the slippery step out of the bath a safer one.
Additional Tips to Make a Home Safer
One of the biggest risks to the elderly who live on their own is falling. That is why emergency buttons that can be worn around the neck are so popular. While the emergency necklaces are great devices, there are simple, cheap ways to lower the likelihood of a fall occurring in the first place.
- Remove Floor Clutter: Junk and decorative items scattered around a room can create a serious tripping hazard. Consider installing wall shelves to display decorative items away from walking areas.
- Use Tape to Flatten Rug Edges: If you can’t remove the rugs all together, consider using a double sided tap to keep the edges of the rug flat out the ground and out of the way of unsuspecting feet.
- Use Nonslip Bath Mats: The shower area is a dangerous place. Using nonslip mats can lower the risk of falling in the tub, which is something that can result is grave injury.
- Keep Cords From Crossing Walkways: Cord maintenance is important for reducing tripping hazards. Bind cords together with zip ties and use cable staples to run wires over doorways and walls versus across the floor.
- Arrange Furniture to Create a Clear Walking Path Through The Home: Adjusting the layout of the house to make for one clear path can help you rest easy that your loved one isn’t tripping on furniture while you aren’t around.
- Train Pets not To Jump or Run Underfoot: Pets mean well, but their excited jumping can easily land a frail person in the hospital. Unfortunately, if a pet can’t learn to be gentle, it may be necessary to consider re-homing them.
Handling End of Life Care
When the time comes that taking care of a loved one means helping them pass on peacefully, you may be torn about how to honor their wishes. Many people want to pass in their own homes where they can be comfortable and at peace.
In these situations, contact your doctor or hospital to be put in touch with hospice services.
Hospice care is a form of health management services where the nurses focus on maintaining the comfort and quality of life for a terminally ill patient as best they can. They will care for your loved one until they pass on, taking away some of the burden from your shoulders.
Hospice care is a great option because as life comes to an end, there are going to be concerns, issues, and general tasks that are better handled by a trained professional. You can take solace in knowing that allowing hospice nurses to help care for your loved on has created an environment where they can have the best final days as possible.
Remember to Take Care of You
It is important to monitor your own well being while taking care of a loved one. It is easy to become lost in our duties and prioritize everything else over ourselves. However, you cannot save others if you have already drowned.
Don’t be ashamed to swim to the surface of the water and breathe for a while. When you are at your best, you can offer your best to others. If you find yourself struggling with the stress or feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a licensed therapist who can help you to mentally unload.
There are a lot of things to consider when taking care of a loved one. You can create a schedule for their care that plans things out for every minute of the day, and you will still find yourself thinking:
Are they getting enough activity?
Do they feel lonely?
Are they safe?
Worrying about them is natural, just like a parent worries for their child. With the tips from this list you should be able to transition their home into a secure and comforting environment.
Take the time to learn what they truly need from you and don’t burn yourself out. It may take some time to get the hang of things, but with a little effort you can give back to them the care they truly deserve.