Making your house a home for elderly relatives

If you haven’t heard the term ‘sandwich generation’ there’s a good chance you’re not part of it.

An family of 3 generations sitting on a sofaGenerally speaking, the sandwich generation refers to those caring for both their children and parents.

And with around 26% of young adults living with their parents – and the increased longevity of seniors – this group of overtaxed adults is growing larger every day.

While there are several housing options for elderly people, many people choose to care for their parents or relatives in their own homes. But this can mean making modifications to your house to accommodate their needs.

For example, when my grandmother lived with us, we had to widen our doorways to make room for her wheelchair.

So, if you think you might be caring for an elderly relative in the near future, here are some useful pointers as to what to do in each room:

Kitchen

My grandma loved baking — she spent hours in the kitchen every day, making delicious apple cakes and rich Italian stews. Once she was in a wheelchair, though, getting around in the kitchen was almost impossible.

If your relative is in a wheelchair, creating accessible spaces requires some hefty work.

In the kitchen, floor space should have a minimum one and a half metre diameter clearance to allow room for a wheelchair to turn around. Counter tops are where things get really tricky. You’ll have to lower them to 75cm, since it’s difficult for people in wheelchairs to reach standard counter tops.

Another thing you need to think about is under-the-counter cabinets – you’ll probably need to remove them to allow access to the sink or work area. You can also install a shallow sink with a single-lever tap to make washing hands and dishes easier.

Bathroom

Younger woman holding an older woman's handWhen you think of the bathroom, think grab bars. Install them everywhere. The bath, shower, next to the toilet, and sink. Improve access to the sink by removing vanity cabinets, to the toilet by adding a raised seat, and to the bath by installing a tub-transfer seat.

However, if your relatives find it hard to get in and out of the bath, it might be a better idea to replace it with a level-access shower.

Stairs

When it comes to falls, stairs can be one of the most dangerous places in the house. Sturdy handrails, strategically placed grab bars and stair lifts can help them independently use the stairs.

However, if negotiating stairs becomes difficult, it might be a good idea to relocate their bedrooms and bathrooms downstairs.

Getting financial support

I live in the US, where making these modifications can prove costly. But in the UK, the government offers grants to help (you lucky ducks). Taking care of your parents and kids at the same time can be stressful — but it doesn’t have to be overly expensive.

My advice? Take things slowly, a bit at a time, and make sure you have plenty of wine on hand. You’ll need it.

Find out more…

Liz Greene

About Liz Greene

I hail from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. I'm a lover of all things geek and am happiest when cuddling with my dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow me on Twitter or delve deeper into my internal musings at InstantLo