As our parents get older, whether their health is declining or they're just as active as ever, many of us will start thinking about the seemingly inevitable move from their home to an assisted living facility.
While this might be the best choice — and some older adults even look forward to the reduced responsibility — if staying in their home is preferable, there are many simple and affordable upgrades that can help your parents age in place gracefully.
We all remember those old Life Alert ads. Help, I've fallen, and I can't get up! Slip and fall accidents become more dangerous as your parents age, and a fall that might only be an annoyance to you could mean a broken bone for them.
Non-slip rug pads are an easy and cost-effective way to keep rugs securely in place and avoid injury. In areas with carpet, tile, or wood flooring, check for damaged spots that could be trip hazards, and either have them fixed or cover them safely.
When a fall means serious injury, there's less room for error shuffling up the stairs at night. Stair lights are easy to install and keep the walkway safely accessible throughout the night. With a plethora of fun and modern styles on the market, this option doesn't scream "old folks" anymore — many are not only practical but can add an attractive element of design to your parents' staircase.
No one wants to ask for help getting in and out of the bathroom. Keep your parents' dignity intact by installing grab bars near the toilet and the bathtub. A steady handrail gives your aging parent some stability in a room where surfaces can get slippery and dangerous quickly. Pick something with a finish that mirrors existing fixtures to help the bars blend seamlessly into the design.
Yard work is hard for everyone but can be particularly challenging as you age. Keeping yard maintenance to a minimum will ensure your parents don't over-exert themselves trying to tame their backyard before it becomes a jungle.
Adding an attractive stone paver patio will decrease the amount of grass that needs mowing and give your parents a comfortable outdoor space to entertain. Try replacing grass at the edge of the yard with low-maintenance plants to add an attractive design feature without adding extra work. For grass that can't be replaced, there might be a community collective or helpful neighbor that can mow this space.
Your parents may be reluctant to part with the things they've accumulated over the years, but more stuff means narrower pathways around the house. Keeping paths clear and wide open can be the difference between a minor fall and a disaster.
Help pare back furniture and decor to the bare minimum needed for their comfort. Great-grandma's chaise lounge may have sentimental value, but if it's blocking easy access to the living room, it's got to go.
Even if your parents are mobile now, there will come a time when getting up their front steps becomes difficult. Install a ramp early to ensure it's there when they need it. It doesn't need to be at the front door if they're shy about the neighbors seeing it, but at least one entrance into the home should have this easy access.
Metal portable ramps make it easy to move the ramp from one door to another, but a solid wood option might be more attractive if you want something permanent. If ramps are a no-go, at least make sure the stairs have high-quality grips.
It might take a little convincing on your part if your parents are used to their suite on the second floor, but consider moving their bedroom to the main floor. A first-floor bedroom eliminates the danger of going up and down stairs while groggy and makes the other amenities of the house more accessible.
If they're already in a one-story property, consider moving them to the room nearest the bathroom and kitchen. If the laundry can be relocated to this level as well, all the better (and so much more convenient!).
It's easier than you think to upgrade your parent's home to a smart home. Automated thermostats and lights ensure a warm and bright home twenty-four hours a day. Some systems can even alert you when there's a problem, so your parents aren't left in the cold if the furnace breaks down.
Even a smart home virtual assistant can be enough to keep your parents safe when help is only one word away.
It's a sad fact, but the elderly are more vulnerable to crimes like break-ins because perpetrators assume they won't fight back. A complete home security system will give both you and your parent's the peace of mind that they are safe in their home.
Most burglars will be scared off by the alarm alone, but many systems alert the police automatically, so your parents don't have to worry about dialing 911 in the dark.
Now is the time to invest in that luxury armchair your dad always wanted. Investing in a good-quality adaptive recliner will give your parents the ability to relax without fearing they won't be able to get up again. Modern electric lift chairs are sleek, stylish, and comfortable, and no one will even know it's a mobility device until it starts moving.