Mobility Issues and Aging in Place
Most seniors want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. This is called “aging in place” and can help your aging loved ones remain happy throughout their later years. However, it’s not always easy, and outdated safety features can turn a once-ideal home into a hotbed of hazards. How do you know when it’s time to make changes? What can you do to make your aging mom or dad—or yourself—safer at home? We’ll give answers to these questions and more in the following post.
Common mobility issues
Mobility isn’t simply the ability to walk. There are dozens of factors that go into a person’s ability to safely maneuver. Joint pain, muscle degradation, visual impairments, and cognition all play a part. Arthritis can restrict movement, and former injuries can make lifting legs to walk up stairs impossible. Neurological disorders may impair spatial comprehension, and blood pressure issues may cause lightheadedness when standing.
Harvard University says you can help determine if your senior loved one is about to cross a bridge to immobility by asking a few simple questions.
If you or your loved one has trouble walking, a home on a single level is a top priority. If the current home requires the use of stairs, you should condense the living space onto the ground floor. This might mean altering the layout to accommodate a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and recreation space. But considering falls kill more than 18,000 older men and women in the U.S. each year, compacting living quarters is a necessary first step toward continued independence.
The bathroom is hands down one of the most dangerous rooms in any home, but it is especially so for the elderly. Slipping is a real danger on wet floors, but bathing may become impossible for someone who can’t enter and exit a high bathtub. Sadly, some seniors let their hygiene fall to the wayside because of this very issue. A walk-in bathtub or floor level shower can increase your or your senior’s abilities to bathe unassisted. Grab bars and non-slip flooring will also help. You might need a professional to handle larger projects like replacing the tub, but installing grab bars is a pretty simple project that shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars and a long afternoon. FamilyHandyMan.com offers instructions here.
Entry and exit
Before seniors can live securely in their home, they must first be able to enter and exit safety. This may involve the addition of a ramp or lift. Contrary to common belief, ramps are not only for those confined to a wheelchair. They provide a gradual incline for adults who might not be able to manage a 7” to 11” stair rise. Expertise notes that ramps are also relatively affordable and a more reliable option than an electronic lift, which relies on moving parts and electricity.
When is it time to remodel?
If you aren’t sure if your loved one is having issues—and you’re not ready to stir the pot—you will need to pay close attention to his or her actions. Angie’s List suggests to, “Make a point when visiting to observe how Mom or Dad gets around the house. Input from the doctor and other health care professionals may give you insight on your parents’ abilities and areas of difficulty.” Only by identifying potential issues can you help prevent injuries.
The loss of independence is a tough pill to swallow but not one you have to shove down your parent’s throat if he or she is in relatively good health in both mind and body. Pay attention when you visit and then help implement corrective modifications that can help your loved one stay home. Your parent will no doubt thank you for trusting their judgement as an adult but also appreciate how the tables have turned, and you are now looking out for their well-being.