Adapting your home for a person with disabilities can include small changes, or major changes. The more changes that can be made early on (keeping in mind future needs) the easier life will be for everyone concerned. Few caregivers can afford to remodel a home totally. Yet it is important to be aware of the “ideal” as you plan the changes that make sense for your situation.
SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY
- In 2003, almost 13,000 people ages 65 and older died from a fall.
- Of those, 7,500 occurred in the home and 2,500 in a residential setting.
- Among all age groups, falls ranked as the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S.
- Of those who survived the fall, 20-30% will suffer debilitating injuries for the rest of their lives
Take a close look at the home where you will provide care. You may want to ask a relative or friend to look at it with you to make sure you haven’t overlooked any safety hazards. As you plan for safety in the home, think about:
- What you will need now and what you will need in the future
- Make safety your first concern
- Don’t forget your own comfort and ease
THE HOME SETTING
The ideal care home is single leveled, and is laid out so the caregiver and the care receiver can see each other from other rooms.
- Remove any furniture that is not needed
- Place furniture so that there is enough space for a walker and/or wheelchair(5 ½ feet apart)
- Once person has gotten use to new layout, DON’T CHANGE IT
- Make sure furniture will not move if it is leaned on
- Make sure the armrests of favorite chair are long enough to help person get up and down
- Add cushioning to sharp corners on furniture, cabinets, and vanities.
- Make chair seat heights at least 20” high
- Install railings in places where a person might need extra support
- Place masking or colored tape on glass doors
- Use automatic night lights
- Make an emergency escape plan in case of a fire. Clear fire-escape routs
- Provide smoke alarms on every floor and outside every bedroom
- Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen
- Think about using monitors and intercoms (baby monitors are an inexpensive option)
NOTE: IF THE PERSON IN YOUR CARE IS ON OXYGEN, INSTALL A BACKUP ELECTRICAL POWER SYSTEM AND/OR MAKE SURE FULL PORTALBE TANKS ARE ON HAND AT ALL TIMES. Safety (cont.)
- Place non-skid tape on the edges of stairs.
- Consider painting top stair and last stair different colors than the others
- Always provide railing along stairways. Extend the handrail past the bottom and top step
- Thresholds should be fixed to avoid tripping
- Put in non-skid flooring or use non-skid floor wax
- Tack or tape down loose carpets or take them out completely
- Use low pile carpets. Avoid busy patterns
- Stairs should have even surfaces with no metal strips or rubber mats
- Install safety gate at the top of stairs
- Be sure steps are well lit. place switch at the top and bottom of the staircase
- Remove all hazards that might lead to tripping
- Tape or tack electrical and telephone cords to walls
- Adjust or remove rapidly closing doors
- Place protective screens on fireplaces
- Cover exposed hot water pipes
- Place light switches next to room entrances so lights can be turned on before entering the room.
- Consider clap on lamps beside the beds
- Use 100 to 200 watt bulbs for close-up activities
NOTE: AN 85 YEAR OLD NEEDS ABOUT THREE TIMES THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT A 15 YEAR OLD NEEDS TO SEE THE SAME THING. CONTRASTING COLORS PLAY A BIG PART IN SEEING WELL. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, THE COLOR OF FURNITURE, TOILET SEATS, AND COUNTERS SHOULD BE DIFFERENT FROM THE FLOOR COLOR.
Comfort and Convenience
- For a person with a wheelchair or a walker, allow at least 18”-24” clearance from the door on landings
- Plan on leaving doorways at least 32” wide for moving a hospital bed and/or wheelchair through doorways
- To widen doorways remove molding and replace regular door hinges with offset hinges. Whenever possible, remove doors.
- Put lever-type handles on all doors
- Think about getting a lift chair
- Install entry ramps with rails
- A person can reach forward about 24” from a seated position and between 18”- 48”from the floor is an ideal position for light switches, telephones, and mailboxes.
Install grab bars beside the toilet, along the edge of the sink, and in the tub and shower according to the needs of each person.
- Put lights in medicine cabinets to avoid mistakes when taking medication
- Remove locks on bathroom doors
- Use non-skid safety strips in the tub or shower
- Put grab bar at the back of toilet and edge of vanity
- Remove glass shower doors or replace them with unbreakable plastic
- Use only electrical devices with a ground fault interrupted (GFI) feature
- Install GFI electrical outlets
- Set the hot water thermostat below 120 degrees
- Use faucets that mix hot and cold water, or paint hot water knobs/faucets red
- Cover hot water pipes to prevent burns
- Install toilet guard rails
Comfort and convenience
- Place a phone near the toilet
- Place toilet paper within easy reach
- Try to provide enough space for two people at the bathroom sink
- Have the sink 32” – 34” from the floor
- Use levers instead of handles on faucets
- Provide a raised toilet seat
- If possible install large walk in shower stall large enough for two people
- Set the water heater temperature to 120 degrees
- Use a single lever faucet that can balance water temperature
- Provide an area away from the knife drawer and the stove where the care receiver can help prepare food
- Use microwave whenever possible (unless person has pace maker)
- Ask the gas company to modify your stove to provide a gas odor that is strong enough to alert you if the pilot light goes out.
- Cover the floor with nonslip surface or use a nonskid mat near the sink
Comfort and convenience
- Use adjustable height chairs with locking casters
- Install a Lazy Susan in corner cabinets
- Set up cabinets to reduce bending and reaching
- Put in a storage wall rather the upper cabinets
NOTE: TO REDUCE THE CHANCE OF FALLS AND TO AVOID REACHING AND BENDING, PLACE FREQUENTLY USED ITEMS AT A LEVEL BETWEEN THE SHOULDERS AND THE KNEES
Comfort and convenience (cont.)
- For easy access, replace drawer knobs with handles
- Use reachers
- A cutting board placed over a drawer provides an easy to reach surface for a person in a wheelchair
- Place a wire rack on the counter to reduce back strain form reaching dishes
- Remove doors under the sink to allow for wheelchair access; also cover exposed pipes
- Create different counter heights by putting in folding or pull out surfaces.
- If bending is difficult, consider a wall oven
- Use suspension systems for heavy drawers
- Put pullout shelves in cabinets
- Use a fridge that has the freezer on the bottom
- Prop the front of the fridge so that the door closes by itself
- Put a monitor to listen to activity in the room
- Make the bedroom bright and cheerful
- Make sure enough heat (65 degrees at night) and fresh air are available
- Provide a firm mattress
- Provide TV and/or radio
- Use throwaway or washable pads to protect furniture
- Install blinds or shades that darken the room
- Place closet rods 48” from the floor
- Provide a chair for dressing
- Keep a flashlight at the bedside table
- Provide a bedside commode
- Hang a bulletin board with pictures of family and friends where it can be easily seen.
- Make bed 22” high and place it securely against a wall
- If all care is at the bedside, consider a hospital bed.
- Make a bedside organizer to hold facial tissues, lotion, and other items.
- Buy a phone with larger numbers on the key pads
- Buy an old fashioned corded phone
- Step by step large size instructions for using the phone
- Handsets with amplifiers that will make it easier to hear
- Keep portable phone within reach of care receiver
- Speed dial buttons with names and pictures of friends and family instead of numbers
- A list of emergency numbers and medicines beside the telephone
- Place clear instructions on how to direct emergency personnel to the house by the phone
- A personal emergency response system to signal a friend or emergency service
NOTE: GRAHAM COUNTY HAS THE “ARE YOU O.K.” PROGRAM FOR SENIORS LIVING HOME ALONE. THE AUTOMATED SYSTEM CALLS REGISTRANTS HOMES AT THE SAME TIME EACH DAY. IF NO ONE ANSWERS THE PHONE, DEPUTIES ARE DISPATCHED TO THE HOME.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL THE GRAHAM COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT.