Few people have a perfect home, but minor changes can make life easier and safer for someone who may have some mobility limitations.
To avoid trips and falls, remove loose mats, install more lighting and make sure there's adequate space to maneuver between furniture. Consider installing a second railing on stairs and ramps, and install grab bars in areas like around the tub, toilet and shower. Either repair or clearly mark floor and walkway areas that are uneven.
To make it easier to open closets, drawers and doors, install "D" shaped handles, or lever-type door knobs. Lever-type taps in the kitchen and bathroom are easier to manipulate than round ones.
To adapt your kitchen, choose appliances that are easy to use and maintain. They should have control knobs that are easy to reach, turn, push or pull. The same goes for large appliances like stoves, washers and dryers, etc. Control settings should be easy to read. Buy appliances that are easy to clean.
Raise or lower the work surfaces in your kitchen to heights that require minimal bending. Allow for sitting rather than standing in areas where tasks may take a bit of time.
People often find it difficult to reach very low or high cupboards. Adjusting the shelving so that frequently used items are within comfortable reach can help. Shelves mounted on rollers can increase access and avoid straining to reach items at the back of the storage area. They also require less effort to pull out. Pivoting or revolving shelves can make corner areas more accessible.
In the bathroom, raise your sink and counters to a height that eliminates stooping. Locate faucets and taps to the front or side for easier access. Raised toilets make it easier to move from a standing position to sitting and vice versa.
Transfer benches make getting in and out of tubs easier and allow you to remain seated while in the tub. Installing a walk-in bathtub creates easier, safer access than a conventional tub. Handheld showers allow you to direct water where needed. Install non-slip flooring and bath surfaces.
Remote controls make operating the TV, video and music systems easier. Consider a cordless phone (with 2-4 handsets so you can have one in each room) that has a speaker option for better grip and hands-free operation.
Wider door and doorways will help accommodate scooters, wheelchairs and walkers.
Install peepholes and an intercom system so you can see and talk with whoever is outside your door without opening it.
Grab bars are a very helpful feature for the bathroom. A physiotherapist can tell you the best place to position them.
A very helpful free publication called "Maintaining Seniors' Independence Through Home Adaptations: A Self Assessment Guide" is available from CMHC. This large print booklet describes various adaptations with checklists to help a senior understand the various possibilities that exist to make mobility around the home easier and safer. The publication can be read or downloaded from their website (www.cmhc.ca). A printed copy can be ordered by calling 1-800-668-2642.
Home Adaptations for Seniors' Independence
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) operates a program specifically designed to help homeowners and landlords cover the costs associated with making minor home adaptations, in order to extend the time seniors are able to live independently in their homes.
The program is called the Home Adaptations for Seniors' Independence (HASI)
Up to $3,500 is available as a forgivable loan that does not have to be repaid, as long as the homeowner agrees to occupy the residence in which the adaptations were made for a minimum of six months.
Minor home adaptations that qualify for funding include such modifications as the installation of :
- easy-to-reach work and storage areas in the kitchen;
- lever handles on doors;
- walk-in showers with grab bars; and or
- bathtub grab bars and seats.
Many other minor home adaptations that benefit seniors with age-related disabilities may qualify for funding under the HASI program. All home adaptations covered by this program should be permanent and fixed to the dwelling. Any work carried out before the loan is approved in writing is not eligible for funding, so be sure to contact CMHC in advance of making any modifications to your home.