When our loved ones reach a certain age or suffer a disability, it becomes more difficult for them to move around their homes like they once did. While some prefer to move to more accommodating spaces, others do not wish to leave their long-time home or would like to stay where they are a little longer. If someone you love is experiencing age-related or other mobility challenges, there are a number of home improvements that can be done to help them better move around their homes safely and comfortably.
We often think of ramps for wheelchair accessibility, and while this is true, ramps also help with other mobility issues. Navigating steps can be dangerous as it makes balance difficult and can be hard to manage if you require a cane or a walker. Ramps can be installed outdoors at the entrances/exits to the home, but threshold ramps can also be installed indoors between doorways to provide an easy transition from one room to the next.
The first place to install grab bars should be in any area that requires extra support for getting up and down. This includes near beds, toilets or stairs, and in showers or tubs. Grab bars must be installed into wall studs and have the ability to support the necessary weight, usually up to 250 lbs. This makes it easier to transition between sitting and standing and reduces the risk of falling.
A toilet riser fits on top of a standard toilet seat, raising it by several inches. This makes it easier for sitting and standing, reducing the risk of injury.
When you have mobility problems, it can take much longer to get in and out of the shower or tub. That increases the chances of getting cold and uncomfortable, particularly in the winter. Instead of installing a new socket, simply replace existing light fixtures with ones that have both regular a light bulb as well as an infrared light, which will provide heat.
Round doorknobs can be difficult to grab and open, particularly for those with arthritis. Replacing them with lever-style handles will make a world of difference to those who need it. You might also consider replacing the knobs on other doors like cupboards, cabinets or wardrobes with bar-style handles that are easier to grip onto.
Knob or turn-style faucets can be difficult to operate, so consider replacing them with touchless faucets or easy-to-use levers. Additionally, anti-scald faucets, which prevent the sudden flow of hot water if the cold water is used elsewhere in the house, are now available.
Mobility devices need to be encouraged at every opportunity for those who need them. However, many doorways are too narrow to accommodate them, which may discourage use. While it may be impractical to completely widen the doorways in the home, offset hinges can be installed, allowing the door to open clear of the doorway, adding a couple more inches of space to accommodate walkers.
Standard bathtubs can be replaced with walk-in tubs or walk-in showers. These solutions make it easier to get in and out of the tub, which is important as baths and showers are especially tricky due to the presence of water. Many of these walk-in tubs and showers come equipped with benches, which can greatly reduce the risk of a slip or fall.
Carpeting that is a half-inch thick or less is the safest flooring option to decrease the risk of slips and falls. Area rugs will often not suffice as they create a tripping hazard. In areas where carpeting is not possible, non-slip tested tiling is available or DIY non-slip coating can be added to the existing tile.
In order to help your loved one get in and out of furniture comfortably, you might consider raising some furniture by creating a wood base or attaching extended legs for it to secure to. You should also consider the placement of the furniture, keeping a clear path, at least 32” of space, for ease of movement.
Increase the wattage in light bulbs, add bright nightlights to hallways, place convenient floor or table lamps for reading and install tap or motion lights in cupboards or under cabinets. This additional light can help with mobility and be a welcome improvement for reading and other tasks throughout the house.
Modern technology can be of incredible benefit to those with mobility issues. Smart home systems can allow anyone to set the thermostat, turn on the lights, change the channel, answer the door or close the blinds all without leaving their seat – a convenience that can make a real difference in the lives of those living with mobility challenges. Additionally, the technological options for helping monitor and communicate with those living independently but facing problems with mobility are great, from wearable alert watches to sensor-equipped floor mats.
Whether it’s a parent, a friend, or a neighbor, having someone in your life who struggles with their mobility can be difficult. These DIY home improvements can help improve the safety of their homes and extend their independence.