This Holiday Season, Be Mindful of Aging Visitors and the Safety of Your Home

Tips to modify your home for those that may get a bit tipsy with or without the spiked apple cider!

By Leah Felderman BA MA  

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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.

Entryway

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.

Living Room

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.

Dining Room

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!

Bedroom

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.

Bathroom

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

  1. Grab bars and tension mounted poles are by far one of the easiest modifications with tremendous benefits! These inexpensive and easily installed modifications cover a wide range of needs. From those that are slightly unsteady and need a small bit of assistance to those that rely on wheelchairs but prefer to remain as independent as possible, our independent aging visitors are happy to help themselves with the aid of a grab bar or security pole. Grab bars are great little additions to assist those getting up and down, and in and out of a variety of situations such as: chairs, couches, beds, showers, toilet seats, and baths. In places where a grab bar may be difficult to install or inconvenient to use, consider a tension mounted security pole (that is also available with a rotating handle/grab bar). Not only are these modifications a conscientious addition for the elderly, they also come in very handy for others with mobility issues such as post-surgery needs, pregnant visitors, and even young children.
  2. Bath and shower seats are a must have for longer term elderly guests. While an occasional overnight visit can manage with non-slip grips and a grab bar for a bath, regular and longer-term visitors will be exponentially safer with a bath/shower seat. This purchase is economical and can be easily stored when not in use.
  3. Anti-slip products are an elderly guest’s best friend! Securing safe passage and stable footing are essential for all guests that may be “less than steady on their feet”. From non-slip bathmats and anti-slip grip strips, to the essential non-slip socks-there are a wide variety of products available for every room and every type of flooring in the home. Don’t forget grip tape for securing rugs to floor surfaces and have additional absorbent, non-slip mats handy for places that attract water such as sinks and pet water bowls.
  4. Personal care products will win a host savior of the year when they discreetly stock disposable diapers, pads, underwear, and other toiletry needs. Consider also having single use toothbrushes, flossers, moist wipes, hygienic body wash, and even disposable razors. You would be amazed what a consummate host will stock for their guests while keeping both their comfort and safety (and privacy) in mind!
Leah Felderman BA MA
 

About the Author

Leah Felderman is a proud alumnus of University of Central Florida (BA) and San Diego State University (MA). She has worn many occupational hats including teaching, hospitality management, government contractor and non-profit organizer. She is an intrepid international traveler having visited over 60 countries before happily settling down into her new life chapter of domesticity as a mom and Coast Guard wife.



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