A guide to home adaptations for the elderly
As we get older, we may start to notice that our home doesn’t feel as comfortable or convenient as it used to. Suddenly, the stairs seem steeper, the doorways narrower, and the floors slipperier. The home, which should be a place of comfort and safety, can sometimes become an impediment, and can make going about daily life a lot more difficult. Home adaptations for the elderly, and anyone else that feels like they might need them however, can make our homes safer, more comfortable, and enjoyable places to live.
Did you know?..
Falls are the most common accident in the home for elderly people in the UK. Every year, one-third of people aged over 65 and half of those aged over 80 fall at least once.
Falls can result in serious consequences, including broken bones and head injuries. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among people over 75 in the UK.
Fortunately, home adaptations can help prevent falls and other accidents. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), home adaptations can reduce the risk of falls by up to 39%, ensuring that more people can live healthy and happy lives.
Why are home adaptations needed?
Getting older can sometimes be tough, our bodies and minds may not work as well as they used to. Reduced mobility, vision and hearing loss, and cognitive decline are just a few examples of the changes that can make living alone a challenge. Everyday tasks like bathing, cooking, and pottering about the house can pose serious risks to health if not addressed.
Simple home adaptations, however, can help improve safety around the home and reduce the risk of serious injury. Grab bars and handrails can be installed in key areas of the home like the bathroom and kitchen and assistive lighting can be installed where reduced vision could cause a problem. Enlarging doors and adding ramps to the home can also make it more accessible for wheelchair users or other mobility devices.
It’s important to remember that getting older doesn’t have to mean giving up your independence or your home. With a few simple modifications and some extra support, you can continue to live your best life and enjoy all the comforts of home for years to come.
Types of home adaptations for the elderly
1. Putting up grab bars and railings
Grab bars and railings can be installed in places like the bathroom and kitchen where floors can become slippery or items are more likely to be dropped. If you have mobility issues, these can help you remain confident when going about your day, and provide that level of comfort and reassurance to help you live happily and maintain your independence. Grab bars can also be used in things like the bath or shower, to ensure that you remain as safe as possible when encountering slippery surfaces.
These are also fairly easy to install. Then can be placed at the right height and location to offer maximum support, and can be easily altered to match the décor of the home so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb!
2. Changing the flooring to decrease tripping hazards
If grab bars and railings aren’t your thing, changing the flooring can be an effective way to eliminate tripping hazards, and reduce the risk of falls and accidents in the home. This can be done by replacing carpeting with hardwood or vinyl flooring, which are smoother and more stable. Additionally, rugs and mats with non-slip backing can be used to prevent slipping on hard floors. These can also be used in places like the bathroom or kitchen to improve safety.
3. Installing wheelchair ramps
Installing wheelchair ramps in the home can make a huge difference in the lives of people with mobility issues. For those who struggle with stairs, ramps provide a smooth and safe way to navigate different levels in the home. This can be especially important for the elderly or people with disabilities, who may find stairs challenging or unsafe to use. With the installation of wheelchair ramps, people with mobility issues can have greater access to different parts of the home and outdoor spaces, giving them more independence and the ability to enjoy everyday activities. It also provides peace of mind for family members and caregivers, knowing that their loved ones can move around the home safely and with greater ease. Plus, the value that wheelchair ramps can add to a home is a nice bonus, making it a practical and worthwhile investment in the future.
4. Stairlift Installation
As people age, navigating stairs can become increasingly difficult and even dangerous. However, installing a stairlift can provide a practical solution that allows people to safely and independently move between floors in the home, reducing the risk of falls and other accidents. Stairlifts come with safety features such as seatbelts and sensors, which can provide peace of mind. Stairlifts can also be customised to the specific needs of the individual and the home which can ensure safety, quality of life, and allow people to remain in their homes for longer and with greater independence.
5. Changing the lights to increase visibility
Additional lighting can be installed in places such as stairways and bathrooms to reduce the risk of accidents. Installing brighter bulbs, adding motion-sensor lights, or installing night lights can all help to improve visibility and reduce the risk of falls. Adequate lighting can make it easier for the elderly to see hazards such as tripping hazards or obstacles in their path. Brighter lighting can also help those with visual impairments to better see and navigate their surroundings.
Not only can lighting adaptations reduce the risk of injury, but they can also improve our overall mental health. Good lighting can improve overall mood and well-being by promoting a brighter and more cheerful environment. This can help combat feelings of loneliness and depression.
6. Adjustable sinks and toilets
As we age, using the bathroom can sometimes become a challenge. Adjustable sinks and toilets however can offer that much needed solution. These nifty adaptations can be raised or lowered to the perfect height, making it easier and safer to use the bathroom. Plus, with customisable options and safety features like grab bars and non-slip surfaces, the bathroom can be a much safer and more comfortable place.
Assessing someone’s need for home adaptations
In the UK, an occupational therapist can work with people to assess their needs and provide recommendations for home adaptations to improve their quality of life so they can thrive at home.
The assessment process usually begins with an initial consultation, during which the therapist will ask questions about the individual’s current living situation, any difficulties they are experiencing, and their goals for the future. Based on this information, the therapist will then carry out a detailed assessment of the home environment, looking at factors such as the layout of the property, the presence of any hazards, and the suitability of existing equipment and furnishings.
Extent of Adaptations
Occupational therapists are experts in assessing an individual’s abilities and limitations in their home environment. There are many things they can suggest when making decisions about what adaptations to implement. Some home adaptations that occupational therapists may recommend include:
- Installing grab bars and handrails in key areas such as the bathroom, bedroom, and stairs.
- Widening doorways and hallways to accommodate mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers.
- Replacing traditional doorknobs and faucets with lever handles for easier gripping.
- Installing non-slip flooring and removing tripping hazards such as rugs and clutter.
- Adding task lighting and nightlights to improve visibility and safety.
- Installing a stair lift or ramp to improve accessibility.
- Re-arranging furniture to improve traffic flow and accessibility.
- Adding assistive technology such as voice-activated devices, visual and auditory alerts, and telehealth equipment.
Costs Involved in Home Adaptations & Financial Assistance Available
The cost of home adaptations for the elderly may vary on the type and amount of the alteration. Simple modifications, such as putting grab bars in the toilet or laying non-slip flooring, might not cost much, whilst more comprehensive adaptations, such as building a stair lift or converting a room can be expensive.
In the UK, there are several sources of financial assistance available to help fund home adaptations for elderly people. Some of the main sources of financial assistance are:
Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG): This grant is available to help fund adaptations that are deemed necessary to improve the safety, accessibility, or mobility of someone’s home. The maximum grant available is £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales, and £25,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP): This is a non-means-tested benefit that provides financial assistance to people with long-term health conditions or disabilities. Individuals can use PIP to fund necessary home adaptations that help them live independently, such as installing a stairlift.
Attendance Allowance: This is a non-means-tested benefit that provides financial assistance to someone who has reached state pension age who need help with their personal care. The allowance can be used to fund home adaptations that are necessary to help the person live independently.
Local Authority Funding: Local authorities in the UK may provide funding for home adaptations for elderly people who meet certain criteria, such as having a disability or long-term health condition.
How Technology Can Help in Home Adaptations for Elderly
Smart home technology refers to devices that can automate functions to make living at home easier. This could be anything from controlling lighting and adjusting temperature, to home monitoring devices such as cameras and sensors. There are plenty of ways that technology can help people thrive at home:
Voice-controlled gadgets can help with daily tasks.
Voice controlled gadgets such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa can help with a number of daily tasks. These devices can make calls, send messages, set reminders, and provide useful information. These functions could help with everything from reminding you to take your medication, to listening to your favourite song.
Voice-controlled gadgets can also be used to control other smart devices, such as lights, electronics, and thermostats which can help maintain independence. These are also great at providing entertainment to combat loneliness.
In the event of an emergency, fall detection sensors can inform carers.
One can install fall detection sensors in the home and wear them if at risk to detect falls and alert loved ones or carers in the event of an accident or emergency.
These sensors can provide peace of mind for the person at risk and their family, friends, and carers. These are especially useful for people who live alone or have a history of falls.
People that need support and their carers might benefit from home monitoring systems.
Home monitoring systems can provide a range of benefits for both the elderly person and their carers. These systems can include video cameras, motion detectors, and other sensors that can detect activity in the home and alert caregivers to potential problems.
Home monitoring systems can help caregivers keep track of their loved ones and provide peace of mind. These systems can also help elderly people maintain their independence and remain in their homes for longer by providing assistance with daily tasks and monitoring their health.
In addition, home monitoring systems can provide valuable data that can be used to identify potential health problems, such as changes in activity levels or sleep patterns, which can help caregivers and healthcare professionals provide timely and effective interventions
Tips on Home Adaptations for Elderly
As people age, their homes may require certain adaptations to ensure their safety and comfort. Here are some tips on home adaptations for the elderly:
1. Safety First
When it comes to home adaptations. The first thing to consider is safety. Falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults, so it is crucial to make sure that the home is free of tripping hazards. This includes ensuring that carpets and rugs are secure and non-slip, that all areas are well lit, and that there are handrails in place wherever necessary. If you think you might need support, or know someone who does, try to identify any obvious risks in the home.
2. Unique Requirements
Everyone ages differently, so it’s important to assess the individual’s needs before making any modifications. For example, someone with arthritis may require lever handles on doors and faucets instead of traditional knobs, while someone with hearing loss may benefit from installing visual alerts for smoke alarms and doorbells. Ultimately, home adaptations are highly personal. People will require specific enhancements that will be unique to their situation and requirements.
3. Mobility Enhancing Modifications
As people age, mobility often becomes more challenging. This may mean installing ramps or lifts for stairs, widening doorways to accommodate mobility aids, or even adding an accessible bathroom on the ground floor.
The difficulty of installing home adaptations for mobility assistance can vary depending on the type of modification and the complexity of the installation. Some modifications, such as installing grab bars and handrails, can be relatively simple and straightforward and may only require basic tools and hardware. Other modifications, such as installing a stair lift or ramp, may require more advanced skills and specialised equipment.
In some cases, on you should to hire a professional to ensure that the modification is installed correctly and safely. It’s important to choose a reputable and experienced contractor who has expertise in installing the type of modification needed.
4. Useful and Practical Modifications
Make certain that the modifications are both useful and practical. It’s important to consider the individual’s daily routine and habits when making modifications. For example, if the person has difficulty reaching high cabinets in the kitchen, installing pull-out shelves or a lazy Susan may be more useful than simply lowering the cabinets.
Other modifications to consider may include installing grab bars in the bathroom, replacing traditional light switches with rocker switches, and installing a security system that includes emergency response features.
Overall, when making home adaptations for the elderly, it’s important to prioritise safety, consider the individual’s unique needs, focus on mobility-enhancing modifications, and ensure that the modifications are both useful and practical.
Home modifications can significantly enhance quality of life by creating a safer and more comfortable living environment. Simple adjustments such as installing handrails, visual aids, and widening doorways can help people live independently in their own homes, and live the way they want. If you feel you or a loved one might be in need of some assistance, financial support is available in the United Kingdom to assist in paying for home modifications. You can also make these adaptations yourself, but it’s important to consult a professional to ensure that the changes you make are safe and effective. Prioritising safety, and considering the unique needs of an individual can ensure that modifications are useful and practical, helping people to live safely and comfortably in their own homes.
If you’re looking for a bit of extra support contact us today for a friendly chat with a member of our team.