If asked, many people would say they'd prefer to age at home instead of in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Of course this is a personal decision, but it can also be a financial one, as staying at home is also a more affordable option. Certain preparations, however, should be made sooner rather than later, to make staying at home safer and easier. Here are five tips to get you thinking about making an easier transition.
1. De-clutter: Seniors who have lived in their homes for years, perhaps since their families were being raised, often accumulate much "clutter". Clutter can be hazardous, especially if it makes navigating narrow hallways or smaller rooms more difficult. It can also collect dust, create stress and take up precious space needed for more useful items. Going through the home, one room or closet at a time, while you are still active and healthy, will alleviate most of the problems later on. Decide essential items to keep, give away, sell, donate or throw away. Do NOT categorize any items as "maybe" keep.
2. Remove any area rugs and kitchen mats that can easily be tripped over.
3. Modify doorways, entrances, paths leading in or out of the home or to the mailbox, to make access safer. Resurface the entryways or path if needed to reduce trip hazards, add lighting for improved visibility. Where there are steps or stairs, install a ramp, and widen the doorway. You may even consider adding an interior lift or elevator where an extra closet might now be found, .
4. Reorganize kitchen items to store most-used items on lower shelves. Purchase a grabber for higher items, and a stool with wide steps and safety treads. Avoid folding stools that can potentially collapse, and install a safety handrail.
5. The bathroom can be the most dangerous room in the house, so it is important to refit them for grab bars in the shower. Replacing a tub with a roll-in shower or a tub with a door is also wise if you can afford it.
6. Replace door lever handles, light switches and electrical outlets that cannot be reached from a wheelchair.
Spending time and investing money on these projects now can be important factors to aging in staying in place. Don't wait until you have an accident or illness strikes, as you may no longer have the option to stay if your environment is not safe when these occur.