Most people would prefer to grow old in their home for as long as possible. There are a number of factors that keep this from happening – loss of transportation once they can no longer drive, loss of surrounding friends resulting in loneliness and lack of interaction, and health concerns that make it difficult to live without additional help. One factor that can often easily be fixed is making certain your home can be modified to accommodate you as you age. What does that entail?
When we are young and healthy, we don’t think about the challenges of aging. Arthritis may make it difficult to turn on a water faucet or turn a door knob. Simple steps may be hard to navigate. Rugs increase the chance for tripping. Cabinets and counters may be difficult to reach.
By thoughtful planning, many of these items can be easily fixed. If you are in your early 50’s or older and are in what you consider your “forever” home, begin planning now. AARP provides the AARP's Home Fit Guide that you can use to evaluate your home. As you make upgrades to your home over the years, the changes can incorporate aging friendly adjustments.
One situation the AARP guide does not adequately cover – preparing a home for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since these diseases cause problems with thought processes that may make a person a danger to themselves, it is important for the family to plan well in advance on when the house is no longer safe, even with the appropriate care.
Home preparation for someone with dementia basically means you will have to “child proof on steroids”. Putting alarms on doors, locking up all potentially dangerous items, and removing mirrors are only part of what may be required. The National Institute on Aging produces a great publication entitled Home Safety for People with Alzheimer's Disease. After reading the publication, many people opt for moving to a facility specifically designed for people with dementia instead of making home modifications. This is usually a safer and more cost effective alternative than trying to stay at home.