Home Adaptation

By: Meike Wiest-MSW, NC Triangle Area President 

Adapt Your Home to Safely Age in Place – Five Areas to Consider

It is no secret that most seniors wish to age in place, for as long as safely possible. As geriatric care managers, we strive to assist our clients with improving their quality of care and quality of life. Ensuring a safe living environment is a big part of that and a general home inspection is usually part of our initial assessment process. There are many ways to adapt a home to meet your specific needs and the options are fast advancing and ever-changing. Technology especially has come a long way to make aging in place more manageable. To ensure that we stay up-to-date and offer our clients the highest level of care, we partner with vetted community experts to develop a plan to meet their specific adaptation needs. Professionals that specialize in this area are called Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). Together, we prioritize the adaptation needs and identify options. I recently sat down with one of our experts, Brad Ross, a CAPS and owner of Mend Medical and Wellness Store in Cary, NC to discuss the newest gadgets on the market, as well as his free in-home assessment program, uniquely focused on his clients needs here in the Triangle Area. Brad and I agree that a comprehensive assessment can not only make life easier and more comfortable, it can also greatly increase safety by decreasing an elders’ fall risk, avoiding medication errors, prevent wandering behaviors or by reducing caregiver stress.

Here are the five hotspots a CAPS assessment is usually focused on:

Bathroom Safety – Bathrooms are a hotspot area for fall prevention. Having effective grab bars in place to ensure safe transfers in and out of the shower/tub and on and off the toilet are crucial. The options go far beyond your typical grab bar and can include tension mounted poles that can be accessorized with various extensions, handles or systems to meet the individuals’ needs, a grab bar that encircles the entire tub and many other creative solutions. A slippery tile floor or rug can also be an issue that needs to be addressed.

Mobility – Walkers and wheelchairs often come to mind when you think about mobility. An assessment for mobility will also include an inspection of entry points to see if stairs have safe railings or if a ramp or stair lift may be required. The same will be assessed throughout the home and suggestions will be made to reduce barriers. Getting in and out of the car can also be an obstacle. Even simple things like the correct height adjustment of a cane or walker can make a world of difference.

Transfers – This area can be a pitfall to good care. Correct tools to transfer from A to B can increase a person’s independence and sense of security. It can also assist caregivers in providing care and can reduce caregiver strain and injuries. Whether it is a trapeze grab bar to pull oneself up in bed or a hoyer lift to transfer a person from bed to wheelchair, the right tools are essential and there are many ways to address specific needs based on the setup of the home and the client’s ability level. Even a relatively simple addition like a lift chair can ease transfers tremendously.

Lighting Solutions – The importance of lighting can often be underestimated. It is easy to miss a step in a poorly lit entry way or stumble when getting up at night to use the bathroom in dim light. Brad states it is easy to forget or change old habits, so he recommends motion sensors in these important areas to ensure proper lighting.

Technology: This area is certainly developing rapidly and holds great promise. Beyond the many helpful apps available on our smartphones and tablets, there are several sophisticated systems on the market that allow for a comprehensive and customizable approach to encompass various functions: medication reminders, monitoring of vitals, glucose levels and weight, GPS tracking of an individual, fall detection etc. Some can even be connected to sensors that can track when a person gets in and out of bed, opens the fridge or front door etc. The possibilities seem to expand all the time. Brad shared that he has been using geo-fencing (think invisible fence) to mark certain perimeters, i.e. a yard or even parts of a neighborhood. If a person at risk of wandering crosses the boundary, a caregiver can be alerted. Keypad locks, wander guards or door alarms can assist with wandering behavior as well.

The ways to customize a home are plentiful. Whether you are planning ahead or are adapting your home reactively after an injury or change in mobility, a geriatric care manager can assist you with a comprehensive assessment and develop a holistic care plan. If home adaptations are required, your care manager can work with you and your care team and connect you with a vetted Certified Aging in Place Specialist in your area, such as Brad with Mend. Involving an Occupational Therapist can also be helpful. While many home adaptations are private pay, your care manager and CAPS can also assist in exploring possible funding sources, such as Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits and Long Term Care Insurance policies. We can also connect you with a CAPS contractor for larger home remodels, if necessary. Please reach out to schedule a free consult with one of our LifeLinks care managers to explore how home adaptations may help you or your loved one!

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