Preparing Your Home For The Disabled or Elderly

Sadly, youth doesn’t last forever, and homeowners who want to age in place must take this into consideration from the get-go. Likewise, preparing your home for the disabled also requires great consideration.  If you know in advance preparing your home for the disabled or elderly is on your must-have’s list, it is helpful when buying. But when you’re already in your home and are looking to remodel to accommodate, this can become complicated and more costly.

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Patrick Parker Realty looks to our experts who have a lot of advice to make it easier on you.  First, there is an incredibly helpful design document available from the Department of Justice (responsible for enforcement of the ADA). These standards dimensionally define an amazing array of disability solutions. These standards have been developed to meet the broadest spectrum of disability needs (say shower size or door clearance), so meeting the standards will likely meet the need of the homeowner unless there is a very specific condition.

Here’s some more things our experts recommend you consider when adapting your home for the elderly or disabled:

Widen Hallways and Doors
This is the most obvious change that needs to happen, but for good reason. Accessibility is the biggest issue faced by disabled people.

Ask yourself:

1. Are the sidewalks wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair?
2. Are there any steps at all required to get into the home?
3. Is the door wide enough, and is the threshold flat enough to get over?

Specialty items, like the special bath tub, lower sinks, and grab bars can be added as needed, but the space to get around in a chair, the lack of any steps at all on the first floor, and a full bathroom on the first floor are basic.

These things are very difficult to change later, and can be quite expensive. Planning for wide hallways and easy access at the outset can save you a ton of money and stress.

Many people do not realize how much your eyesight can deteriorate as you age, even if you’re healthy. Lights that work just fine for young people may not be enough for those with failing eye sight.

Brighter, natural spectrum lighting is key. Also, adding accent lighting to help “guide” those who are sight-impaired will also help them with life quality & independence.

Look for the dark spots in your home and lighten them up. The ability to see clearly can drastically reduce the risk for tripping and falling, which is a huge concern for the elderly and disabled.

Another issue that the young and abled may not consider is the acoustics of a home. It’s easy to filter out all that extraneous noise when your hearing works properly, but it becomes much more difficult for the impaired.

Understanding how to outfit your home for optimal acoustics is important hear. Carpeting and other soft surfaces help but that is only the beginning. Do some research on home acoustic improvements for the hearing impaired. Hiring or consulting with an acoustic engineer might not occur to you, but it can be a great investment – and will save you the frustration of trying to shout over ambient noise.

If the elderly or disabled person in your home is in a wheel chair, another top priority for you should be to get the carpets replaced.

Carpet can make it difficult to move around independently in a wheelchair because it takes more energy to do so. Hardwood and laminate floors not only make the home easier to navigate; they are also very popular and can increase the re-sale value of a home.

Making your home safe doesn’t always mean downgrading aesthetics. Wood floors are both stylish and easier to move around on safely.

Of course, when you’re shopping or remodeling with the elderly and disabled in mind, it’s easy to slip into a hospital mindset and start thinking practically without considering aesthetics.

This is a huge mistake, changing the dynamic of a living space to nurture creativity, energy and overall well-being relate to safety and health, but also to having an inspired space people feel good in no matter what age they are. Just because somebody is disabled doesn’t mean they want their home to feel like a hospital or rest home. People prefer to live at home for a reason. If your loved one wanted to live in a rest home, they would move to one!

Make it Personal
Whether buying a home or adapting a home to make it safe for the disabled or elderly remember; every person, and disability, is different, so ask your loved one about their preferences.

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Your Turn

Have you had to adapt your home or make a home buying decision based on preparing for the disabled or elderly? What advice do you have for others? Sound off on our Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!