- Work from the outside in. If you’ll be in charge of sprucing up Mom and Dad’s front stairs this spring, ensure that there is a good, sturdy handrail in place. Minimize the possibility of slips and falls by adding clean sand to the paint which will be used on the steps. It might even be time to replace the stairway with a universal access ramp.
- Smarten up their house. Grandma and Gramps don’t have to come anywhere near their millennial grand- or great-grandchildren’s ability in terms of tech savvy, but just a few smart home features can go a long way. Several that we particularly like for independent senior living are: personal emergency response systems, robotic vacuum cleaners, and smart doorbells that screen potential visitors.
- Don’t ignore the obvious. Write up a “honey-do list” of easy-to-fix safety hazards in your parents’ home, and then put your handywoman/man skills to work … or hire someone to tackle these chores. For example, you should secure all scatter rugs firmly in place with non-slip tape or rubber shelf liners, repair non-functional locks on doors and windows, and replace any frayed or damaged electrical cords.
- Pay close attention to lighting. As eyes grow older, they may benefit from more powerful overhead light fixtures, as well as task lights carefully placed near work surfaces such as kitchen counters. Make sure that the ambient lighting is glare-free and at a consistent level from one room to the next, to avoid eyestrain due to macular degeneration.
- Check the bathroom. The area around the bath and toilet can be an especially dangerous one for seniors. Install grab bars in the shower stall and next to the toilet. Or invest in an elevated toilet seat with its own padded arms attached. A bath bench will make it easier for Mother or Father to get into the tub, as well as providing a comfortable, secure place to sit while washing. A handheld shower head will simplify personal hygiene.
- Stay connected. I have a mother and I am a mother myself. These two attributes make me particularly qualified to offer this piece of advice: give Mom (and Dad) a call more often. Keeping in touch via Skype or FaceTime is not only sociable, it will also allow you to see how well (or the opposite!) your parent looks.
- Consider installing a home sensor system. If your folks are frail or forgetful, you will be able to monitor their wellbeing with your smartphone, even if you live thousands of miles away. Check that they aren’t neglecting such important aspects of health maintenance as taking necessary medication and eating regularly, as well as being informed of an emergency situation — for instance, a fall. Of course, you will want to talk this option over with your parent beforehand to ensure that he or she will be comfortable with it.