In the past, seniors are comfortable with the idea of living in nursing homes and retirement communities. There, they are better cared for by medical practitioners. There are nurses and doctors available 24/7 to look after them if and when they have a medical emergency. But over the years, this practice has changed. More and more retirees are opting to stay in their own homes. Some of them move back in with their children or let their children and grandkids move back with them.
But for the most part, it is up to you, the younger generation, to make sense of all these. Preparation is the key to this change. Think of it the way you prepared for your funeral arrangements. Isn’t everything written down, sealed, and signed by you? You’ll inevitably have to take more responsibilities with your senior parents in the house with you. But with a bit of home renovation, you can make the transition easier. If your home is prepared for this new chapter in your family life, you’ll be more prepared, too.
Depending on what kind of set up you’ve discussed with your parents or siblings, you either have to renovate your home or their home. This is important because you don’t want to constantly worry about their health while you’re at work. You want to make sure that they can go around the house without getting into accidents.
This isn’t such a big renovation project, but you have to make the doorways at least 36 inches wide. That will accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility devices. You need a contractor to do this. Some electrical wires might have to be moved. Call an electrician for any electrical work needed. This can cost around $400 to $600.
Change the round doorknobs to lever-style knobs. These are easier to grip and especially helpful for people with arthritis or other problems that limit motion. This is a do-it-yourself task. You don’t need to call anyone to change the knob on your door. Doorknobs cost about $20 each or sometimes, less.
Again, you have to remember that your parents may not be as agile as before. Grab bars are especially helpful in the bathroom where the floor can get a bit slippery. Like the doorknobs, this is a do-it-yourself moment. If you are not too comfortable drilling into your walls, you can get a handyman for $100. Grab bars are usually priced between $20 and $30.
Wood and hard stone floors have less traction. They are also harder and do not break a fall. You may want to change them into vinyl and linoleum tiles because these offer more traction. Expect to be charged around $3 to $4 per square foot for vinyl or linoleum. That’s a big project to undertake. If you don’t have the budget for it now, choose to install carpet flooring in your parents’ would-be bedroom and fix any uneven tiles and defects.
Your parents’ bedroom should be on the first floor of your house. It’s not the basement or the attic or the extra bedroom on the second floor. You have to convert a part of your first floor into a bedroom. If your front door is elevated, you also need a wheelchair ramp. Though there’s no immediate need for it, the ramp will be helpful in case your parents will have a difficult time climbing stairs in the future. A wheelchair ramp costs about $1,500.
You might see all elements of your home even at night, but it’s not the same for your parents. They have limited vision. They need three times more lights than you to see stairs, things, cabinets, floors, and others. Install more lights in your home. Or, you can install window blinds to alter the direction and angle of the natural light entering the home. Make sure all corners and crevices of your home are awash with light. This will prevent accidents. Light bulbs cost less than $10. Blinds and drapes are more expensive, but this is only an option.
It might be a few years down the road or it might be next week, but make sure that your home is prepared for your elderly parents. Doing so will help you be ready for the next phase of your life. It’ll also give you peace of mind during the long hours when you’re at work or doing errands. As long as you know your house has everything covered, you will feel at ease going about your life while your parents are at home.