Remember when you first bought your home? Like most people you developed a special relationship with your home since it became your safe zone – a place that not only provided shelter but more importantly a place where you felt connected to family, friends and yourself. It’s a place where you came and went whenever you wanted with no restrictions. Over time your house fit you like your favorite pair of jeans – comfortable, dependable and nonthreatening.
Unfortunately like your jeans that had been washed a thousand times your home may at some point seem like it doesn’t “fit” you anymore. What changed? Well in my case the stairs seemed steeper than before, I’d swear someone lowered my toilet making it harder to use comfortably , and never mind the kitchen cabinets which seemed to have grown a full foot above where they used to be. In reality though what happened is that the house didn’t change at all - I changed. I lived life and that living had some effects. Houses aren’t like pets who will love you no matter how you change. Houses don’t have the capacity like pets to anticipate your needs and change to match them. They are a static structure incapable of making an accessible bathroom appear overnight.
What it takes is the right planning, timing and money to make the changes that once again makes you and your house one. This is where the term Aging in Place started. Aging in Place is defined by the Center for Disease control as “the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level."
The first step in this process is to honestly assess your current living situation taking into account your health and the four vital functions that are required for you and your house to be in sync:
1. Can you enter/exit your home safely?
2. Is the bathroom accessible and useable?
3. Is the kitchen accessible and useable?
4. If yes to 2 and 3 is it useable by you or with assistance?
Expanding on these four items you can delve deeper into what specifically needs to be addressed by asking more questions:
• Are you able to enter/exit your home in a safe manner?
• Are you able to open doors, turn knobs?
• Is there clear passage with enough room to move through the halls?
• Can you navigate with ease around the Living Room/Family Room?
• Are there slip-able throw rugs on the floors?
• Is the flooring smooth and durable and can you distinguish between thresholds and edges?
• Can you use your kitchen appliances/sink/faucet?
• Reach the plates/glassware?
• Is there enough lighting in the home?
• Is there a Bathroom and/or a Bedroom on the main floor?
• Can you go up/down the stairs and is there a railing on both sides?
• Can you get to your bedroom?
• Is your closet functional for you to reach your clothing?
• Can you get from your bed to the bathroom safely?
• Can you use your Bathroom with ease?
• Is the toilet high enough?
• Can you reach the sink/faucet and medicine cabinet?
• Can you use your tub/shower unit?
• Are there grab bars in the tub/shower unit?
• Is there a grab bar along the wall instead of a towel bar?
• Are you able to open/close the windows and/or curtains/shades?
• Can you reach the light switches/outlets/thermostats?
• Can you call 911 and safely leave your home in an emergency?
Once you have determined what is making your home uncomfortable to you, you can start to research what options are available to make your home comfortable once again.
Next in the series: Options to Overcoming the Obstacles
Carol Marie DeRienzo, RN, BSN, CAPS, CHM, UDCP, The Nurse Carpenter, president of Solace RNovations, Inc. (www.solacern.com) Our mission is by using the Eye of the Carpenter and the Heart of the Nurse, to develop customized solutions for all ages and abilities that fit your individual needs and preferences to help you stay in your home more safely and comfortably as long as possible.