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Modifications can keep you in home

Published: 4/22/2019 2:02:21 PM

When buying a home, people do not often think about accessibility or the logistics of moving around as they age. However, the reality can be daunting after living in a home for many years, and changes in mobility require modifications to the home. Some modifications are simpler and others are more complicated. Most people’s goals are to stay in their home with as little change as possible.

Consider what type of support systems you have readily available around your home such as:

Transportation: No one likes to think about not being able to drive, but it does happen and knowing your resources is important

Social connections: Family, friends, senior centers, places to exercise and additional connections keep you active and supported

Proximity to healthcare facilities: Easy access to your doctor and other medical facilities

Assistance if the time may arise with meals, general house maintenance, and care Knowledge and planning gives you confidence and peace of mind as you age

You can do several things to prepare your home to be as safe as possible. The primary challenge usually revolves around stairs. One option is to move to the main floor of the home. Another more expensive option is to install a stair glide that allows you to use a chair seat between floors. Stair glides can be rented from some local vendors. Double railings can also make stairs easier to navigate.

Floors: High thresholds between rooms may be difficult to navigate. Remove the thresholds and insert a replacement piece of wood. Add small trim to create an incline. Doorways at times are too narrow for a walker or wheelchair. Doors can be reversed to open out versus in, providing more width.

Furniture: Try rearranging furniture for increased accessibility in your home. Consider adequate pathways to get to common areas. Move away large dressers or bedside chairs that interfere with access to the side of the bed is extremely helpful. Add bed canes to the sides to help with getting in and out of bed.

Surfaces: Managing the height of surfaces is important to maintain your ability to safely transfer on and off chairs, beds and commodes. A low chair may be difficult to get out of and stand up. Furniture risers are inexpensive and keeps your furniture looking the same without adding cushions. Toilets can also be modified by either replacing them or by adding a riser or rails to help you.

Of course, there are a host of other smaller interventions including improving lighting and removing fall risk hazards such as loose rugs and electrical cords. In addition, use iron rod railings or posts to safely navigate outdoor terrain outside your home.

As we age, independence, safety, and life quality are what we strive for. The more planning and preparations made ahead, the more successful we become

(Kathleen Wyle is a physical therapist and Denise Martel is a nurse and home care director at Concord Regional VNA. For more information, call 224-4093.)

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