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HomeSmart

Home Adaptations for Independent Living

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Long Term Care: When to Plan and How to Pay

Posted on October 3, 2018 at 3:48 PM Comments comments ()
Long-Term Care: When to Plan and How to Pay
 
Preparing for the possibility of long-term care for a loved on is a scenario no one wants to envision. But, with  63% of seniors needing long-term care, everyone must consider it. As we grow older, it’s wise to put a plan in place to ensure our aging loved ones will be cared for in the best possible way. While you may be open to being a caregiver, taking on the role unexpectedly can be a considerable burden. This article will help you understand steps to take to plan and pay for long-term care.
 
Planning for Long-Term Care

When you help a friend or family member make decisions about the possibility of long-term care, it won’t be easy. It can be hard for our aging loved ones to accept the potential of needing in-home care or moving into an independent of assisted living facility. However, make sure to point out to them that by planning, they have a substantial say in their future. You have time to:
●     Examine family history to see what kind of care may be needed. For example, if your loved one has had more than one close family member — like a sibling or a parent— diagnosed with dementia, their risk increases significantly.
●     Start making healthy lifestyle choices that will postpone or prevent some of the common conditions that cause seniors to need long-term care. A healthy diet and daily exercise, along with quitting smoking and limiting alcohol, can add 5, 10 or even 15 healthy years onto a life.
●     Reduce the chance an in-home injury could occur by installing non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens, moving bedrooms to first floors or installing a stair lift. More than 3 million seniors go to the ER each year due to accidents in the home. Not only could an injury due to a slip or a fall require physical therapy to recover, but it could also result in the long-term consequences of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
 
Planning for long-term care is part predicting the future and part preventing it. Help your loved one understand that planning is a type of prevention. If you take steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario, you’ll actually be focusing your energy on how to make their golden years the best years yet.
 
Paying for Long-Term Care

Deciding on ways to pay for long-term care is crucial if you want your planning to make a difference. If your loved on is adamant they have in-home care, but the two of you don’t work out how to cover the costs, they could be facing a great deal of disappointment when the time comes. Figuring out how to pay for long-term care means looking closely at insurance and assets.  
 
Once they understand their insurance options, the next step in planning for costs involves helping them analyze their assets and cash flow. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, especially for seniors who come from a generation where finances are an extremely private matter. Emphasize this is a judgment-free conversation, focusing on helping them free up funds for long-term care by:
●     Including long-term care in their retirement planning, from deciding when to retire to how much they will need to put into a 401(k).
●     Considering a reverse mortgage, which involves understanding the pros and cons. On the one hand, a reverse mortgage will give your loved one cash in-hand without needing an excellent credit score rating. This can help with making home modifications for accessibility or hiring an in-home caregiver. On the other hand, there could be negative implications to their estate or a spouse or partner who will remain in the home after they leave.
●     Selling a life insurance policy is another way to pay for long-term care’s costly daily expenses and medical support. If care isn’t needed, then the policy stands as-is. Many seniors consider this option to be a win-win.
 

As our life expectancies increase, so does the potential for long-term care. It’s scary and even overwhelming for seniors to think about, so knowing they have the support and guidance of a caring friend or family member means a lot. Your loved one deserves to feel loved in their golden years. Planning for long-term care— even if it is never needed— provides invaluable peace of mind. 


Article by June Duncan, the co-creator of the website Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

Benefits of Hiring an Accessibility Specialist

Posted on May 22, 2017 at 3:08 PM Comments comments ()
If you or a loved one are reaching the point in life where either a move or upgrades to a current home is necessary, working with an accessibility specialist can be like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

Maybe you or someone you know would like to be more independent but are having difficulty maneuvering the barriers found in most homes. Narrow doorways, stairs and steps, standard bathtubs, slippery floors are all common barriers to safety that most people struggle with as they get older.  An accessibility specialist can help with these issue. These professionals deal with all of the aspects of home remodels in order to allow those who are aging but don’t want to move away from their home, or those with disabilities but who want to maintain their independent living conditions succeed in their desires.  Although there are a large number of independent and assisted living facilities available in most areas, an overwhelming number of people would prefer to spend the golden years of their lives in the home where their children may have grown up, or where they’ve created decades of good memories and connections.  
 
If you do need some help, who should you call?  What type of training should an accessibility specialist have?   There are only a few programs that offer specialty training in designing and remodeling home environments so as to help those who choose, remain in their homes safely and comfortably. There is more to this than meets the eye and these specialists have learned to look not just at a specific environment but also the people who will be living there. This is precisely what differentiates an accessibility specialist from a contractor - their ability to link specific ailments with specific solutions and to project long term changes as one ages that might affect ones safety and independence within a home environment.  Keep in mind that even simple things like grab bars should be installed based on an individual's physical condition.  

The National Association of Home Builders offers a short course known as the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), designed to train contractors in the technical and business management side of renovations as well as the customer service skills which are needed for these types of transaction. 

The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers an online course in Home Modifications, dedicated to promoting aging in place and independent living for persons of all ages and abilities. This five week program covers home assessments and safety checklists, construction techniques, funding resources, and also includes required coursework in the ethics of dealing with a vulnerable population.  After successful completion, the Program grants an Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM).

What can you expect once you’ve located a trained accessibility specialist?  The Specialist will meet with you in your home to help define your needs, and then complete a full written assessment that includes suggestions for improving safety and comfort.  Recommended changes will vary widely from home to home, based not only on home layout but also on each individuals physical requirements as well as budget realities. Afterwards, you will be shown some plans and/or be given written suggestions to suit both your short term and long term needs. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you may be offered a floor plan which will help you to visualize the concept in the way that it will appear once complete.  The suggestions can include every aspect of your home living, both inside and out.  For example, a ramp leading up to your home will help with stairs if they become hard to navigate or if you have to use a wheelchair.  Seats in your shower along with an accessible and removable shower head, lowered shelves to hold grooming supplies and a handle to help you in and out of the tub or shower unit can all be changes that will help accommodate your right to privacy and good hygiene. You might also need to think about expanding doorways, adjusting the height of your countertops, or making storage more accessible.  Arrangements can be made to reconfigure or bring in specialty equipment for ease of use.  It’s possible that your floors may need to be changed (from a deep pile carpet which can catch wheelchairs or even cause a tripping hazard) to low pile carpets or laminate for better traffic movement.  Better lighting can help you see in the dark, and motion sensor lights can alleviate the need for reaching for light switches.  There are so many different things to think about that someone trained in the process will help to ensure nothing is overlooked and can make suggestions that haven’t even entered your mind.  Renovations can be a large expense and quite the production; you want to get it done right the first time.  Your accessibility specialist will also give you an estimated budget for the renovations you’d like done so that you can determine which are affordable and which ones might need tweaking.

Since most accessibility specialists have dealt with numerous renovations, they can often lead you to competent and efficient businesses and contractors able to handle the suggested modifications.  From electricians to carpenters to plumbing suppliers, an experienced accessibility specialist has set up a good relationship with a variety of tradespeople and can let you know which ones will be right for your particular job and one that will do the work based on your budget.


Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Vidalux. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

10 Common Home Barriers that Challenge Aging in Place, Part 1

Posted on April 15, 2015 at 6:18 PM Comments comments ()
The longer I am involved in helping people remain in their homes as they age, the clearer the repeating issues become.  I have found that there are 10 barriers within a home that consistently challenge everyone as they get older.  These barriers wind up causing safety issues because as we age our ability to maneuver safely around them diminishes.  


In the next few blogs I am going to address all 10 issues.  This, Part 1, will tackle the top three:

1.  STEPS AND STAIRS - This refers to both exterior and interior steps. In a perfectly designed home for aging- in-place there would be no stairs or steps anywhere. In Florida many single story homes, while designed for retirees, were designed with changes in floor level. Consequently,there might be a step or two from dining to living room or steps down leading from an entrance hall to the rest of the house.  With aging comes deterioration of our vision and depth perception making these areas particularly unsafe.

The solution for both singular steps and flights of stairs are railings, stair treads that delineate stair edges, and upgraded lighting.  You'll see in the pictures below some examples of these solutions that include battery operated lighting particularly useful for stairs, and colored stair treads which work well on exterior stairs - both inexpensive solutions to major issues.  

                    
         



    


 


                                         STAIR TREADS

BATTERY OPERATED LIGHTING


For those who can no longer manage stairs at all, in addition to standard portable sutcase ramps there are numerous threshold ramps that are lightweight, some of which adjustable so they can adapt to 1 - 4 steps, and can be easily moved from front to side or back doorways.


                                 

                                                







                                     




FREE STANDING THRESHOLD RAMP               LIGHTWEIGHT SUITCASE RAMP


2. NARROW DOORWAYS - For a doorway to be accessible and comfortable to get through while in a wheelchair or using a walker or when helped by a companion, it needs to be at least 32" wide.  Many interior doorways would fail that test!  In Florida we face a common issue of 24" bathroom doors.  Once one can no longer walk through a doorway unaided, a 24" doorway is extremely uncomfortable if not impossible to maneuver.  
 
The obvious fix is to enlarge the doorway by cutting the wall so as to widen the door opening then install a new door, preferably a pocket door which allows for complete access.   Keep in mind that to do so may also require shifting the vanity location which is often located adjacent to the bathroom door, so while this may be the only option available it is also a costly one.  An inexpensive option which may prove helpful is to swap the existing door hinges with swing away ones. These will allow for an additional 4" of clearance when getting through a doorway since these hinges allow the door to swing clear of the jamb and set it tight to the wall.  The pictures below show both options.











SWING AWAY HINGES TO REPLACE EXISTING DOOR HINGES

                            


     

                   

                 


SPRING ACTION POCKET OPENER/CLOSER





POCKET DOOR


3. TOILETING- Why oh why were standard toilets designed at the height they are?  One does not have to be old to have difficulty standing up or sitting down on them.  Just ask anyone with a bad back or a knee injury how comfortable those efforts are. The CDC has released a study showing that 75% of falls in adults over the age of 85 occur in the home and of those falls 52% occur in the bathroom around toileting.  

The solution is to replace your older standard or lowboy height toilet with a comfort height one.  Comfort height toilets are 17" high compared to 14-15" height of a standard one and those 2-3" really make a difference.   Are these toilets expensive?  Not really.  Both Kohler and American Standard offer comfort height toilets starting at about $200.  Just make sure when shopping you use the term "comfort height" and not ADA.  As soon as the salespeople hear ADA they search for an unnecessarily expensive and specifically designated toilet.

If a 17" height is still not enough, a toilet riser (basically a little platform) can be built under the toilet to bring it to a more comfortable height.  You will see pictures below of varied toilet configurations.


            


               

      






COMFORT HEIGHT TOILET           TOILET PLACED ON FLOOR RISER


Another options to install a wall hung toilet, a more popular choice in Europe than in the U.S. The benefits of a wall hung toilet are that one can set the height to individual preference and cleaning under it is easy.  These toilets also take up little room in a bathroom as opposed to a floor mounted toilet which usually has a much larger footprint than the toilet bowl warrants.

Note: for those who require additional help when maneuvering on and off a toilet, wall mounted grab bars can be set on either side of the toilet on the wall behind it.  These bars function like the arms of a chair and offer great security for those with either balance issues or when transferring from wheelchair or walker to toilet seat. There are a couple different styles differing widely in price.  


                  

















MODERN FOLD DOWN BARS               TRADITIONAL FOLD DOWN BARS
                                                      TOILET ON CUSTOM BUILT FLOOR RISER




Next:  Part 2, Commonly found barriers within a home #4-6  




  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC

Home For the Holidays 2014

Posted on November 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM Comments comments ()
Note:  I originally published this post a couple of years ago, but believe the information is important enough to re-post each year at holiday season.  Statistics remind us that fall prevention is key to independence as we get older, and features in a home that pose no problem when we're at our physical best often become more difficult to negotiate with aging frailties.   


It’s holiday time which means that you may be either visiting or being visited by your parents.  This is a perfect time to assess your parents’ safety and comfort whether in your home or theirs. 

I recently gave a presentation at a senior complex and spoke about safety concerns that could be found in almost every home.  That triggered a lively conversation about the problems these seniors encountered when visiting their kids:  no grab bars in the bathroom, slippery shower and tub floors, no place to sit down when showering, steps that were not clearly delineate, stairs without handrails, or poorly lit hallways or staircases.  Most of those I spoke with said that they were reluctant to ask their adult kids to make any permanent changes to their own homes or install any special equipment, etc.  I have no doubt that if their kids thought about it, they would be happy to provide their aging parents with safer, more comfortable surroundings.  And truthfully these modifications would benefit everyone in the home. 

So here’s a simple list.  None of these items are costly and all can be done quickly:
 1.    Reduce tripping hazards by removing books, shoes, laundry, and toys from stairs; 
       ensure there are clear pathways through all rooms  
2.    Install handrails on stairs and steps; bright colored tape can be applied at the edge 
       of steps and stairs to delineate floor level changes. 
3.    Increase the lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs; put bright lights over all 
       porches and walkways 
4.   Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach places so that using a step stool or 
      chair is not necessary. 
5.   Small throw rugs are a hazard.  Either remove them completely or tape them to 
      the floor with double stick tape. 
6.   Have night lights or battery operated lights in the bedroom, hallways and
      bathrooms. 
7.   Apply non-slip strips or non-slip coatings in bathtubs and showers  
8.   Install grab bars in showers and tubs, appropriately anchored (no suction ones, 
      please!!)
9.    Purchase an inexpensive shower bench or chair which can be taken in and out of the 
      tub or shower as required.   

 After all, an injury from a fall is one the biggest dangers the over-65 population faces and one that often results in a loss of independence.  Implementing the safety measures mentioned above can substantially reduce the chance of injury to your parents and allow for a safer, happier holiday season for all.

Happy Holidays!


Susan Luxenberg, Pres.
HomeSmart LLC

Aiding the Caregiver

Posted on December 25, 2013 at 2:11 PM Comments comments ()
We talk about adapting or building homes for aging in place as being critical for safe and independent aging,   most often with the focus on the aging client themselves. Adaptations include replacing tubs (when climbing over a tub wall gets too difficult ) with walk in showers, or installing comfort height toilets to counteract the difficulties many people  encounter when getting up from a seated position, or adding bars that help with balance issues.  Without question, all of these measures contribute greatly to safety and independence as we age. It's important to acknowledge that creating a barrier free environment will also positively impact the types of caregivers we attract and the quality of care we may receive in the future.
 
We recently adapted a home for a client who required a wheelchair for mobility.  Her biggest problems centered around her bathroom.  Between the narrow doorway and overall configuration of the space, she was unable to get her wheelchair inside the bathroom, relying  instead on her caregivers carrying her (or more accurately dragging her) through the bath in order to use the toilet. She admitted that she had considered renovating her bath to accommodate her failing health, but as she explained, her caregivers were "wonderful and willing to compensate and carry her throughout the home when necessary." It came as an unpleasant surprise and rude awakening when one of her aides dropped her en route from doorway to toilet, prompting our client to call us for help.  Our initial conversations included her main caregiver who admitted she did not like having to carry our client at all and was worried not only about the client's safety but her own. She expressed that if we could not provide solutions to the restrictive bathroom configuration, she would need to resign for fear she would ultimately injure her client. 
 
So let's acknowledge that if we want to retain quality caregivers, we need to set up safe, easy to negotiate spaces not only for ourselves but for them as well. Caregiving is often a difficult, stressful job and the last thing any responsible caregiver wants is to cause harm to their loved one, or get injured themselves and unable to do their job.
 
And while we're on the topic of caregiving, I recently received an email from a reader who found himself thrust into the role of family caregiver when his wife was diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer three months after giving birth to their baby daughter.   Happily, his wife ultimately won her battle and survived the ordeal.  What they went through however proved to be such an extreme learning experience for them both, that he wanted to share his thoughts about effective caregiving in the hopes it would benefit others.   
 
“In the beginning it was an intense whirlwind of emotion and confusion as I did not fully understand what exactly needed to be done.  I had to quickly learn what was required of me and go above and go beyond these requirements for my wife.  I had to remain strong for my wife, my daughter, and myself. 
 
During my trials, and the trials of the many other caregivers I met along my journey, many lessons were learned.  Here are some of the best tips for being a caregiver that I have learned from my experiences.
 
USE RESOURCES TO BECOME INFORMED
 
Knowing all the options you have regarding treatment and all possible outcomes will help you feel more prepared for any decisions you might have to make.  Write any questions you may have down so that you don’t forget them when you are with the doctor.  Remain organized with your information and your questions, and don’t be afraid to ask about even the most minor things. 
 
ESTABLISH PRIORITIES
 
Prioritize everything that needs to be done. You may find yourself overwhelmed with everything, but prioritizing will help you organize and can make the entire experience easier.   
 
ASK FOR HELP
 
Consider hiring and/or enlisting the help of others for those things you don’t absolutely need to be responsible for.  Friends and family are often eager to help, but they really don’t know what would be most helpful.   A little direction can go a long way.  Asking for and accepting their help can make things considerably easier on you and your loved one. This alone will go a long way towards lowering your stress levels and helping you focus on things you need to get done. 
 
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
 
When a loved one is ill and everything falls onto you, taking some time for yourself can make you feel selfish.  This is not the case however and can actually be very beneficial.  Taking this time to unwind can lower your stress levels, and allow you to focus greater attention to your loved one as well as the many things that need to get done.  If you fail to take any time for yourself, your stress levels will remain high and your ability to do anything will be greatly reduced.
 
USE TOOLS TO REMAIN ORGANIZED
 
There are many things that can help you remain organized and focused.  Clutter and disorganization will lead to higher stress levels and an inability to fully understand what needs to be done and where priorities lie.  Keeping a notepad handy to jot down reminders will help immensely.  Keep all important paperwork and information sorted into folders in one place nearby.  This way you never find yourself frantically looking for that one piece of paper with the important information you need at the last minute. 


 
 Susan Luxenberg
 President
 HomeSmart LLC






 
 
 
 
 

 

Home for the Holidays 2012

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 4:49 PM Comments comments ()
Note:  I published this blog post last year around Thanksgiving but believe the information is important enough to post again.  Statistics remind us that fall prevention is key to independence as we get older, and features in a home that pose no problem when we're at our physical best often become more difficult to negotiate with aging frailties.    

It’s holiday time which means that you may be either visiting or being visited by your parents.  This is a perfect time to assess your parents’ safety and comfort whether in your home or theirs. 

I recently gave a presentation at a senior complex and spoke about safety concerns that could be found in almost every home.  That triggered a lively conversation about the problems these seniors encountered when visiting their kids:  no grab bars in the bathroom, slippery shower and tub floors, no place to sit down when showering, steps that were not clearly delineate, stairs without handrails, or poorly lit hallways or staircases.  Most of those I spoke with said that they were reluctant to ask their adult kids to make any permanent changes to their own homes or install any special equipment, etc.  I have no doubt that if their kids thought about it, they would be happy to provide their aging parents with safer, more comfortable surroundings.  And truthfully these modifications would benefit everyone in the home. 

So here’s a simple list.  None of these items are costly and all can be done quickly:
 1.    Reduce tripping hazards by removing books, shoes, laundry, and toys from stairs; 
       ensure there are clear pathways through all rooms  
2.    Install handrails on stairs and steps; bright colored tape can be applied at the edge 
       of steps and stairs to delineate floor level changes. 
3.    Increase the lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs; put bright lights over all 
       porches and walkways 
4.   Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach places so that using a step stool or 
      chair is not necessary. 
5.   Small throw rugs are a hazard.  Either remove them completely or tape them to 
      the floor with double stick tape. 
6.   Have night lights or battery operated lights in the bedroom, hallways and bathrooms. 
7.   Apply non-slip strips or non-slip coatings in bathtubs and showers  
8.   Install grab bars in showers and tubs, appropriately anchored (no suction ones, 
      please!!)
9.    Purchase an inexpensive shower bench or chair which can be taken in and out of the 
      tub or shower as required.   

 After all, an injury from a fall is one the biggest dangers the over-65 population faces and one that often results in a loss of independence.  Implementing the safety measures mentioned above can substantially reduce the chance of injury to your parents and allow for a safer, happier holiday season for all.

Happy Holidays!

  Susan Luxenberg
  President
  HomeSmart LLC




Recent Questions: Kitchen Lighting Levels

Posted on June 24, 2012 at 3:39 PM Comments comments ()
Question:  We are about to remodel our kitchen and want to incorporate universal design ideas for aging in place. We’ve read that we will need increased room lighting, but we don’t know how standard lighting is calculated let alone increased lighting.  Can you give us an idea of how to determine correct lighting for our new kitchen?

AnswerA well-lit kitchen layers and blends four different types of light: general or ambient lighting in the ceiling, task lighting over sink, cooking and work areas, display lighting in cabinets, and possibly some decorative lighting, like lamps, chandeliers, or wall sconces. The most important lighting to consider for the purposes of aging in place is both general and task lighting.

I recently worked with clients who also were remodeling their kitchen. They had already gone to a kitchen designer/contractor for a new layout but wanted me to review their plans with an eye towards aging in place, and one of the questions that came up was that of adequate lighting.  

My clients' windowless, 10’ x 12’, galley kitchen had a single ceiling fixture and there was no task lighting at all.  And while the new plan called for under cabinet lighting, there was no plan to change, or add to, the ceiling lighting

After researching the question of illumination levels, I found the simplest calculation to be 8.5 lumens per square foot – walls, ceiling, and floor included.  This calculation pertains to general lighting levels only and excludes any under cabinet lighting, which is considered to be task lighting.   

So here’s an example:

A 10’ x 15’ by 8’ kitchen has a walls/floor/ceiling surface area of around 700 square feet.  An 8.5 in/sf target suggests you might want to build in the capacity to generate at least 5950 total lumens.  A basic 50 watt PAR 30 bulb produces about 660 lumens, so I’d use about 9 of them to light up that kitchen.


As for task lighting, islands, areas over the sink and stove, and counter tops require more concentrated, direct lighting since they are work areas.  Every section of kitchen counter top needs task lighting. Such lighting can be provided by under cabinet lighting attached to the wall cabinets or by small pendant  

fixtures.  When planning for task lighting, remember to allow for separate switches rather than a single switch which will allow you to turn on only that counter top lighting that you need rather than all the fixtures at once.   
                                       
  
 
   Susan Luxenberg 
  President
  HomeSmart LLC

Home Safety Checklist

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 2:24 PM Comments comments ()
 June is Home Safety month highlighting the need for fall prevention within the home.  Just to set the stage,

  • 1/3 of the population over the age of 65 falls each year and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age.  Half of seniors over the age of 80 fall annually.
  • Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again.
  • About half (53%) of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall within six months.
  • Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls.    
  • 55% of all falls take place inside the home.

Outside of our homes we often have to deal with uneven pavements, crossing lights that change too quickly and force us to hurry, sidewalk and step materials that get slippery when wet, stairs without railings, and poorly lit entrances to name just a few commonly found 
hazards.   Our homes, however, are under our control which gives us the opportunity to remove risks to our safety.   So what can we do within our homes to reduce unnecessary hazards that contribute to our risk of injury and falls?  

Home Safety Checklist

EXTERIOR ENTRANCES AND EXITS

 Check driveways, sidewalks, and walkways to make sure they're free from cracks and 
  uneven surfaces
 Steps should have a non-slip surface
 Handrails are installed on both sides of stairs 
 Install outdoor lights at all entrances
 Outside walkways and sidewalks should be well lit
 Make sure the entrance threshold is not a tripping hazard
 Door knob, lock, key, peephole & package shelf all work and are easy to use
 Place stickers on glass patio doors to prevent walking into them

KITCHEN AND BATHROOMS

 Sinks & tub faucets, shower controls and drain plugs are accessible & manageable
 Under sink hot water pipes are covered
 Task lighting is sufficient
 Grab bars installed in shower/tub area
 Non-slip treads or coating installed in shower/tub
 Mirror height is appropriate to sit & stand
 Kitchen shelves are reachable without step stool
 There is a surface adjacent to stove for hot food placement
 Scatter rugs are secured with non-slip, double sided rug tape
 Adjustable height shower head is installed
 There is a fire extinguisher in the kitchen

INTERIOR DOORS, WINDOWS, STAIRS, HALLS

 Doorways are wide enough for entry
 All windows and patio doors open easily, are easy to lock & operate
 Stair railings run full length of stairs on both sides and extend slightly beyond them
 Stairs have adequate lighting
 Light switches are installed at the top and bottom of stairs
 There is contrast/texture for floor level changes
 Doorway thresholds are not a tripping hazard
 Runners and scatter rugs have non-slip pads or rug tape
 There are clear pathways in all rooms
 Carpeting should lie flat and be securely fastened
 All stairs to be in good repair, not loose, broken, missing or worn
 Pathways, exits, and halls are clear of miscellaneous items, toys, and cords

HEAT, LIGHT,VENTILATIONS, WATER TEMP CONTROLS, SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS, PHONES

 Thermostat is easy to read
 Extension cords are tied and out of the way
 Add nightlights to increase visibility especially in hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms
 Maintain a light or light switch within easy reach of the bed
 Always turn on a light before entering a room
 There are no scald valves on all faucets
 Smoke detectors/CO detectors are in place
 Phones are located near bed, sofa, chair
 Doorbell & phone are loud enough to be heard


  Susan Luxenberg
  President
  HomeSmart LLC



  

Recent Questions: Tub Options for Aging in Place

Posted on March 18, 2012 at 3:05 PM Comments comments ()
Question:  I plan to renovate my guest room and bath for my elderly mother who frequently comes to visit.  I had intended to remove the bathtub in that bathroom and install a walk in shower for her but she prefers a bathtub over a shower so I’m now uncertain what to do.  I don’t want to spend money renovating the bathroom only to have to renovate again in the future.  Are there bathtubs that work with the idea of aging in place or should I try to convince her that a walk in shower is the better long term choice? 


Answer:  Walk in showers are great for everyone, young and old, but there are a few bathtub options that will also work for your mother and are designed for aging in place.   

   There are walk in tubs that you get into through a door in the tub wall.  Once inside the tub, the door latches shut and seals tightly so you can fill the tub with water. There are a number of manufacturers offering walk in tubs with varied features, such as hand sprays, grab bars, anti scald valves, locking mechanisms, hydro jets, etc.   Not all walk-in tubs are the equal so it’s important to research what each manufacturer has to offer.  There are tubs with inward swinging doors and those with outward swing.  There are larger tubs and smaller tubs to suit different areas of the home.  There are tubs with dual drainage systems, presumably to drain water faster, and those with single drains.  You can easily familiarize yourself with these products by researching online.  Walk in tubs are also not flush to the bathroom floor so while they only present a small step, there still is a need to step over a small threshold in order to enter the tub. The big negative to a walk in tub is that you can’t get out of the tub until all the water drains out.  So if this is the option you choose, I’d suggest also installing a heat lamp above the tub to take the chill off while waiting for the tub to drain.  


 











   A less costly option is a standard tub that has a ledge built into the side.  Rather than climbing over the tub wall (a task that gets increasingly difficult as we age), you sit on the ledge and swing your legs into the tub.  Some bathtub manufacturers are now including an option for grab bars to help with getting up and down in the tub.  Alternately, grab bars could be mounted on the wall within easy reach when sitting in the tub. 

















   
   If your tub is in good shape or you do not want to replace it at this time, there are bath lifts that fit right into the tub and raise and lower into the bath via a remote control.  The only problem with this option is that you’re basically dedicating your tub to bathing and not showering because the lifts are too cumbersome to be taken in and out of a tub easily.  For that reason, you might consider adding a hand held shower head low enough on the wall so as to be reachable while sitting in the tub. 




         
 
 









   
Of course we cannot predict what's physically in store for any of us as we age.  If built properly, walk-in or curb-less showers are an optimal solution because one could easily get into the shower in a wheelchair, if necessary.  But then again, not all curb-less in showers are equal either. All too many "curb-less" showers are built with 4"-6" curbs, which doesn't really solve any problem for someone who can't step over a threshold or manage a step. The other issue has to do with size.  I recently was asked to redesign a curb-less shower that  replaced a 29" x 59" bathtub.  The space was so constrained that it was impossible for the owner, a large man in a large wheelchair, to comfortably maneuver the shower space and keep water in the shower rather than all over the bathroom.  

Recommended minimum dimensions for a residential walk in shower are 36" width x 60" length.  42" width is better and 48" width is ideal.  However, there are people who prefer larger showers and others who need assistance while bathing.  A shower 5 feet by 5 feet allows enough space for a person in a shower wheelchair and an aide.  So if you're working against space constraints and don't have sufficient room to build a shower that meets minimum requirements, a curb-less shower is not the answer and one of the tub options might, in fact, be best.


 Susan Luxenberg
 President
 HomeSmart LLC

Renovating a Condo for Aging in Place

Posted on February 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM Comments comments ()
   For those who live in condos and are looking to make aging-in-place renovations, there are special considerations to be taken into account when planning a project.

   For any renovation that would require a permit, the condo association must grant approval.  The documentation required for review varies according to each association, but usually includes a description of your project, associated drawings or plans, and information on your contractor, including certificates of insurance.

  Your first step then is to find out about the approval process either through the condo association directly or via the management company of the building.  They not only can supply you with a list of submittals required and rules for renovation, but also the dates when the association meets for plan review. 

   From my experience, the most stringent requirements imposed by condo associations have to do with restricted work hours.  Their biggest concern is that your neighbors are not inconvenienced by the work being done in your home.  Many condo associations also impose additional restrictions on the contractor, such as what entrance and elevators can be used, where parking is allowed, procedures for debris removal, areas for material storage, etc.  Make sure you give this information to any contractor pricing your job.  It’s important they understand the restrictions so as to be able to set up an orderly approach (and realistic costs) for your renovation. 

   It makes common sense that it may be difficult to obtain approval for any structural changes to your condo considering that your condo is only one unit tied to the structure of an entire building.  Often there are hidden utilities behind walls and over ceilings that feed other units.   Even if approved, structural changes may be prohibitive when compared to similar renovations to a single family home. 

   Keep in mind that each association is different in their requirements so do not rely on assumptions from a contractor or be intimated by stories from friends living in other locations.

   And while it may seem like an additional burden and a frustrating delay to have to go through your association’s approval process, if you understand an association’s requirements before committing to a remodeling project, you’ll save yourself both time and money in the long run.


  Susan Luxenberg
  President
  HomeSmart LLC

 
 

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