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"Helping my parents stay in their home"

  • Bev911
    Posted: Jul 05, 2009 06:19 PM
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    Richmond, VA
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    My mom and dad are in their 70s and are in good health. They have told me they would never consider leaving the home they have lived in since they were married and raised all 5 of their children. With the high cost associated with assisted living and the loss they will probably take in the real estate market, I can also see the financial benefit of their staying in their home. I’d like to hear from other boomers who have helped their parents stay in their homes successfully. What are the modifications to make the home safe and what else should be considered?


  • #1
    Alicia Reid
    Posted: Jul 08, 2009 02:16 PM
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    Alicia Reid
    Sammamish, WA
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    Dear Bev911,

    This is great that your family is working on a plan to help your parents remain in their home. The time to plan is now, before illness strikes. This planning can help anyone of any age or resource level. Life can change overnight for anyone. Any of us can walk out the front door tomorrow and come back unable to negotiate stairs. There is no time like the present to formulate a plan on incorporating universal design elements to make their home user-friendly should your parents find themselves in the situation of being differently-able.

    Make a strategic plan:

    They should consult a financial planner and develop a budget for current and changing financial needs. With an attorney they should draw up a will, and an advanced health care directive, and any other documents their attorney deems necessary. Explore options for managing their affairs should that become necessary. If they have adult children with special needs they should make special plans to arrange for a guardianship or strategic planning.

    Carefully review the floor plan of the house:

    If they can’t do this objectively, hire an architect, residential designer or accessibility contractor to look at the existing floor plan and see how it could be made fully accessible through retro fitting modifications. Learn how to incorporate elements of universal design so that they can continue to use the same space well into the future in varying degrees of mobility. Would a dish drawer make more sense than a regular dishwasher? Typically they are more accessible than most dishwashers. Should your oven be at a lower height? Should it have a door that lifts up? Is there a bedroom on the main floor? Or is there a den or bonus room that could be converted to use as a bedroom? If they don’t have a shower or bathtub on the main floor, is there a half bath or a laundry room? There may be a way to reconfigure the existing rooms to accommodate an accessible stall shower as well as a front loading combination washer/dryer that takes up less space. If it has steps, add ramps. Add lifts on the stairs or a pneumatic elevator if necessary, but ensure that they have a good fire escape route and exit route during a power failure. Consider adding an “always on” generator. Instead of door knobs, change to lever handles. Make the property wheelchair accessible. Most wheelchairs are between 27-28 inches wide. With knuckles on either side you should allow a minimum door width of 32 inches. If your plan includes a future time when in-home care providers may be required 24 hours per day, modify the house in such a manner that you have a minimum of 2 bedrooms so that you may accommodate overnight staff.

    Two great resources on Universal Design are: wheelchair accessibility adaptations and

    Best wishes,

    Alicia R. Reid, Coldwell Banker Bain, Redmond, WA 98052, 425-466-0203

  • #2
    Posted: Jul 08, 2009 06:40 PM
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    Hamilton, MT
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    Alicia's reply was excellently thought-out and well-written!

    You can find "accessibility contractors" and those who specialize in making homes safer and easier to live in by visiting the website for the National Association of Home Builders and searching for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists in your location that will be able to help you: -- then "CAPS Directory" in the search box

    Also, don't forget a zero-step entry. It gives the ability to freely enter and exit a home safely--in the meantime, you can use it for moving heavy items in and out more easily.

    Facing this right now is very proactive and you will find that you will not regret the decision to make things easier for those you love!

    Ellen Robinson-Barrios, CAPS

  • #3
    Posted: Jul 09, 2009 08:38 AM
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    Staten Island, NY
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    One of the biggest hurdles my parents faced while they stayed in their home was losing the ability to drive to doctors, veterinarians, senior centers, etc. Ask your local hospital, senior center, or local agency on aging (AAA) or Council on Aging (COA) about transportation resources for seniors in your area. My parents had a companion who came in twice a week to drive them to doctor appointments, the grocery store, the library, to have their hair cut, etc. can refer you to pre-screened companions in your area, as well as adult day-care, home care, assisted living services, etc. It was a relief to know that I could check in with the companion to make sure everything was alright. Your parents probably have a local grocery that delivers – Peapod is national service that delivers from local stores. Most drugstores deliver prescriptions without a fee and can ship a huge variety of products. If you don’t have a local store that delivers, is a backup, though its shipping is expensive. My parents also used Meals on Wheels to get a hot meal brought in everyday. I hope this helps, good luck!..

  • #4
    Joy Griffin
    Posted: Feb 04, 2010 04:46 PM
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    Joy Griffin
    Naperville, IL
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    You definitely want to get rid of anything that could create a fall risk, especially since osteoperosis becomes more of an issue for women after 65. So, throw rugs, old newspapers, magazines, books or any other clutter on the floor, should all be taken away. Cords should be tucked away, all stairs should have sturdy railings, doorways with a steep step should have a grab bar installed, bathrooms should have grab bars for the shower - along with a shower chair and handheld shower head when needed. A Life Alert button is always a good idea in case of emergencies. As their mobility decreases, a lift chair (recliner that will electronically lift up to help them stand) can be beneficial. But in-home care is really the best recommendation, once it's needed. A caregiver who can help with making meals, making sure they take their meds, helping out with driving, bathing and toileting if needed - especially if memory and/or mobility become an issue. But go through a company, not an agency, so that taxes and everything are taken care of.

    And to add to what NonnaB said, many pharmacies can also bubble-pack the meds to aid in correct dosaging.

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