7 Tips for Home Improvements for Elderly Relatives
If you have older relatives, you of course want the best for them. This might mean helping them find a facility where they can live comfortably. However, it might also mean some home improvements for elderly relatives so they can be comfortable in their own homes without having to move.
Home improvements for elderly relatives can encompass a lot. From medical assistance to locating local services to making structural changes to the home itself, there is a lot to consider. We’ll provide some ideas and guidance, but ultimately it comes down to your specific situation and your relative’s needs.
It can be helpful to think of home improvements not simply as a way of fixing up a house, but as a means to improved a loved one’s overall quality of life. Some of these decisions may be tough to make, but they are ultimately for the best.
Here are 7 questions to consider when contemplating making home improvements for elderly relatives.
1. Do They Want to Move?
As Americans, we move a lot, about 12 times in our lifetimes, on average. Your elderly relative might not want to move again, and that’s understandable. They might have put down roots in their current home that they are reluctant to tear up.
It’s important to be sensitive to that, even if you feel like there are needed home improvements for elderly relatives. That can be done with them staying in their home, as long as you can talk honestly about their needs and wants in this situation.
Sometimes, a better alternative to moving can be something like elderly home care services. This can take the form of in home caregivers for the elderly.
If your relative doesn’t want to move, this can be a great option. It offers you the peace of mind of knowing a caring professional is on hand to look after your beloved relative. At the same time, your elderly relative doesn’t need to upend their entire life and leave behind a home that may have a lot of memories attached to it.
If moving is an option, talk about where and what the goals are. For short distance moving, you might be able to do it just with the help of friends and relatives. However, for long distance moving, you might need assistance with transporting belongings.
2. Can They Get Better Care In Their Home or Outside It?
This is a really important question and one you need to be honest with yourself and your relative about. It is possible to arrange in-home care, such as the elderly home care services that were mentioned above. However, this might not be the right choice for everyone.
Talk with your loved one about whether they can reasonably stay in their home or whether their needs for care are too great. Sometimes, home improvements for elderly relatives just isn’t enough to ensure they are truly safe and comfortable. In such circumstances, they may need to look for other places they can live.
Places like nursing homes and assisted living apartments are great for elderly relatives who need a little more help. These facilities can ensure they are safe and comfortable, and that all of their medical needs are managed. The experts always on hand can be invaluable when it comes to complex medical needs that require assistance.
3. Are They Living in A Safe Environment Currently?
Home improvements for elderly relatives can address some of the structural issues with a home, but it doesn’t always address the deeper issues going on beneath the surface. You should not stop just at new locks and a home inspection. You should also try to find out if this is a safe environment for your relative to be living in.
If you don’t know your relative’s landlord, you may want to find out who that person is, if they have a landlord. This gives you a direct contact with someone who can help manage the property. It also lets you know who you should call if there is a maintenance issue that needs to be addressed.
Even if your relative doesn’t have a landlord (perhaps, for example, they own their own), it’s good to be aware of what local laws and ordinances apply to the home. This is especially important as you work on home improvements for elderly relatives, as some improvements might run afoul of ordinances. You don’t want to create legal trouble for your relative later by accidentally violating an ordinance.
You should also look up local tenant law and see if there are things to watch out for there. You don’t want to be caught by surprise by a legal issue. See if you can get ahead of it by arming yourself with information.
4. What Medical Services are Available Nearby?
Local medical services are crucial for elderly relatives you want to take care of. Hopefully, they already know the local medical services that are in the area, but it doesn’t hurt for you to have this information on hand as well. That way, you can serve as a backup or good emergency contact in the case of a medical emergency.
Some local medical services to know about include things like hospitals, primary care doctors and physical therapists. However, don’t just think about the obvious doctors. It is also good to know where specialists like dentists and dermatologists are located in the area.
You might find it helpful to make a list of local doctors and medical services. This can be a list that both you and your relative keep on hand. While doing home improvements for elderly relatives, make a mental note of any improvements made to the home for medical reasons. This can give you a clue as to which doctors and specialists will be the most important to have on hand.
Your relative also probably has their own preferred doctors and local medical services already. It doesn’t hurt to simply ask them and explain that you would like to have this information for your own peace of mind as well. This is a matter of their safety, so stress how important it is to you when having this discussion.
Some medical needs may cross over into the home improvements for elderly relatives that you are working on. For example, if your relative sees an audiologist for hearing-related issues, that can also have an impact on the needs they have at home. Perhaps they need special devices installed to compensate for their hearing troubles. Take these kinds of factors into consideration while helping with home improvements of ro elderly relatives.
5. Do Medical Conditions Need to Be Managed Within the Home?
This leads into the next question, which is about whether medical conditions need to be managed within the home. Knowing where local medical services are is great, but it is mostly for check ups and emergencies. Sometimes, chronic conditions can impact everyday life. That is a situation in which your home improvements for elderly relatives will have to take medical conditions into account.
Above, we mentioned hearing loss and hearing-related challenges for the elderly. That is far from the only condition that could impact health and well-being inside the home, however.
Your relative might be facing some challenges such as chronic pain, reduced mobility, poor eyesight or other conditions. This can make getting around the home more difficult and, in some cases, perhaps even dangerous. You want your relative to be safe and secure in their house, so think about this when considering home improvements for elderly relatives.
For example, you might consider installing something like a stair climber to help them get around their house. Stairs can become a bigger and bigger challenge as we age, unfortunately. Medical devices that assist with that can dramatically improve the quality of life for your relative.
6. How Can You Make the Home Itself Safer?
This leads into safety. Something like a stair climber is not only good because it assists mobility. It also increases your relative’s safety. It may simply be unsafe for them to climb up and down the stairs at this point due to any number of medical conditions.
The bathroom is another area where safety can be a concern for an aging relative. When doing home improvements for elderly relatives, think about ways you can make their bathroom more accessible and less dangerous. For example, you might install safety handrails in a shower or tub, or even a door so they don’t have to step over the lip of a tub to get into the shower. This simple improvement can make a world of difference for an elderly relative with health and mobility challenges.
Safety extends to outside the home as well, though. You might consider installing a safety camera or doorbell camera. A simple camera that lets your relative see who is at the door can give them peace of mind and prevent them from opening the door for someone who might want to scam them or take advantage of them.
As part of this aspect of home improvements for elderly relatives, take a look around the house at all the doors, windows and locks. These are the places where a break in could most easily occur. A break in could leave your relative extremely vulnerable, so check that these locations are secure.
If locks are old or you aren’t confident in them, it is relatively simple to change out locks on your own. You can simply unscrew the current doorknob and install a new one with a new lock in it.
7. What Happens If Something Still Goes Wrong?
Despite all these safety measures and home improvements for elderly relatives, something could still go wrong. Life happens. We can’t predict and prepare for absolutely everything. We can only do our best.
If an emergency should happen, know how to handle it and what your rights are. As mentioned above, it’s good to know what kinds of medical services are available in the nearby area. It might not be a terrible idea to have a list of local medical services, their addresses and their phone numbers. This list will get ignored most of the time, hopefully, but in an emergency it will become invaluable for quick reference when you might be flustered or in a compromised situation.
However, your due diligence does not need to stop there. You can also look up a medical malpractice attorney if you think something fishy has occurred. It is a sad reality that the elderly are sometimes taken advantage of when they are in a compromised situation. That is an injustice that should definitely be addressed.
Whether your loved one has managed to remain living at home due to home improvements for elderly relatives that made that possible, or has gone to live in a care facility, they still have rights. If you suspect your relative’s rights were violated, contact an attorney and find out what kind of recourse is possible.
Protecting Loved Ones
We love and care about our elderly relatives tremendously. That’s why all of this information is so important. We wouldn’t be doing home improvements for elderly relatives if we did not genuinely want the best in life for them.
These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself while doing home improvements for elderly relatives. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, think of it as a starting place. Your situation and your family will be unique. Tailor your questions and approach to home improvements for elderly relatives to those specific needs.
Ultimately, this is best tackled as a collaborative effort. You can arm yourself with knowledge – such as knowledge of local care facilities and medical facilities – but this should be your relative’s decision as well as your own. It is their life that is potentially getting upended. Even if it is in their best interest to move, they might have a compelling competing interest to stay home instead.
The best advice for this kind of situation is to be informed, be compassionate, and have open communication. This will allow you and your relative to both feel safe, happy, and secure, no matter what living situation you ultimately decide on.