Home for the Holidays — a Different Viewpoint

If you are planning on visiting your childhood home during the holidays, you may find that things have changed. Your Mom and Dad may need your assistance to continue living independently in the family home.

Home for the holidays takes on a different meaning when adult children return to the home they grew-up in. The obvious thing will be that your home stayed the same but your parents and their physical needs are very different now.

As more and more older adults are choosing to age in place, the need for home modifications to accommodate physical changes in people is growing. Most homes today are designed using military specs that match the physical abilities and stature of the typical 18-year-old male. While these designs may be ideal for younger, taller people, they may not be ideal for seniors or those dealing with physical limitations.

How can you help? Create to do lists of short-term fixes that you and the handy-man can get done. Next, set up your plans for the items that may require longer-term work and more dollars to make them happen. In most cases, however, homeowners can make some simple modifications that will allow their elderly parents to live more comfortably in their homes. (AARP’s Home Fit Guide, has made some good suggestions that bear repeating.)

Short-Term Fix-it Ideas

Below are just some short-term, low-cost suggestions:

• Provide railings on both sides of all exterior and interior staircases.

• Ensure exterior walkways and driveways, interior hallways and rooms are well lit and free of debris, obstructions and clutter.

• Make sure each room has a sufficient number of outlets. This will prevent the senior from using extension cords that may run across a room and cause falls.

• Switch round doorknobs for lever handles. Lever handles are easier to open when a person is managing arthritis. They are also easier to open with full hands.

• Install grab bars next to toilets and in showers and tubs.

• Change out faucets with round knobs to ones with lever handles.

• Add non-slip surfaces to tubs and shower floors.

• Provide a shower seat for bathing.

• Raise electrical outlets and lower light switches so they can be easily reached, even from a sitting position.

Long-Term Fix-it Ideas

The following items may need a long-term plan and cost more, but their investment may be worth that cost to enable the senior to live in the home:

• Modify at least one entrance so that it is step free and wheelchair and walker accessible. This also allows for easy passage of wheeled luggage and other items you may be bringing into the home.

• Modify interior door widths so

that they are wheelchair and walker accessible.

• Replace the toilet with one that is taller, 17 to 19 inches high, to make it easier to use.

• Replace flooring with non-slip flooring or low-pile carpet that is easy for walkers and wheelchairs to roll over.

• Ensure the home’s main level has a full bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, kitchen and living area.

• Replace bathtubs with walk-in or roll-in showers to accommodate older individuals who have difficulty walking.

• Lower kitchen cabinets so they can be easily reached.

Home for the holidays - needs to include time to help your parents accomplish things with you that they no longer can alone. Better than a Santa gift!

Kristine Watson is the general manager of Comfort Keepers, which provides home health services to seniors and their families. Reach her at 239-4391 or ck942@