With the holidays swiftly approaching, it is time to get the home ready for visiting family members! While parents of young ones often come equipped with their own supplies such a sippy-cups, baby gates, and diapers the consummate host will also have all the right home preparations and accoutrements for elderly visitors. While one may not be able to make their home seasonally ADA compliant, there are many small adjustments that can be made to help aging visitors be safe and comfortable in the home.
Elderly that rely on assistive devices for mobility may struggle in the narrower hallways and doorways of the typical home. While it is not reasonable to undertake the widening of doorways for an occasional visit, it is helpful to remove any potential obstacles from both sides of the door to help create a clear and more easily navigable passageway. A table next to a doorway may be a convenient depository for car keys or perhaps a great place to collect empty glassware from refreshments during a party. Yet, such obstacles spell certain doom for an elderly loved one carefully navigating their walker just so through a doorway. Likewise, any items that make a narrow hallway even more harrowing to navigate should be resituated until the more elderly have departed. If your house has a shoes off policy, please remember that this is inconvenient at best for older people. From the arduous task of bending over to take off shoes to navigating unfamiliar territory with the naked foot (or worse yet, a slippery stockinged foot)-the entryway is a great starting point to start thinking about the comfort and safety of the older visitors.
A variety and abundance of seating options are second nature to the consummate party host. This is most appreciated by the elderly visitors who tend to have a wide range of seating needs. Some prefer a firm surface as they may have a difficult time once sunken into a deep comfortable couch. Others prefer a chair with leg and/or footrest for elevation and circulation concerns. Still others prefer to be cozily nested into a space and catch a quick snooze (or at least act like they’re sleeping to avoid annoying Aunt Margie). Make certain any tables, lamps, and other potential obstacles are thoughtfully located (or removed). Coffee tables are convenient spots to display family photo albums and rest drinks, but a poorly located table can take Uncle Frank out at the shins while simultaneously ruining great wine and a beautiful rug.
Please don’t try to cram your guests in side-by-side for a meal, especially if there are older and elderly guests. It is uncomfortable for able-bodied adults to dine in tight quarters; to subject an older adult to such unnavigable situations is shortsighted for the sake of tradition. Instead of the traditional table setting perhaps try a buffet style arrangement with a variety of seating options for all guests. If it is unavoidable to have your guests dining snugly side-by-side, try to give the oldest and least mobile guests a spot at the head of the table and at the most easily accessible corner seats. Better yet, make certain to seat the guests that may need the most help next to the guests that can be the most help. A good opportunity for the younger family members to earn brownie points and a lion’s share of dessert as they help the older guests with such tasks as serving and pouring!
If any holiday party-goers are spending the night, or at least need a nap, make certain the bedroom is well prepared for the elderly. Just as with the rest of the home, be conscientious that all obstacles and tripping hazards are removed. Make certain to choose a room (or rooms) for older guests that have sufficient and easy to use lighting. Choose a room with a bed that is not too high off the ground; a sturdy stepstool is also a handy for both the bedroom and other rooms your older guests may need to utilize. Private access to a bathroom would be an added bonus, as we all know how difficult it can be with privacy and gastrointestinal issues common in older age.
Often a confined space, take care to make this space as open and clutter free as possible. Non-slip grip strips both in the shower/bath and on the floor are incredibly helpful. Make certain any absorbent mats are firmly affixed to the floor. Grab bars in and outside of the shower are a great safety addition and can be easily installed and removed as need dictates. Conscientious hosts that are extra insightful to elderly needs may include a wide variety of toiletry items stored discreetly under the sink. Personal care items such as pads, disposable underwear, flossers, single use toothbrushes, and moist wipes are resourceful. In addition, in a secure but accessible medicine cabinet one would be relieved to find a variety of gastrointestinal over-the-counter medications. Never underestimate the appreciation of a well-prepared and discreet host!
Worthwhile investments to modify your home for older visitors