If a loved one needs care at home, you may need to make some changes to their home to ensure it’s still safe for them.
If they’re experiencing mobility difficulties or have memory problems such as dementia, they may not be as comfortable in their environment as before. However, this doesn’t mean that they need to move. You can modify their living space to make it accessible and comfortable again.
We’ve provided a list of some areas to consider, looking room-by-room.
In each room, consider:
You should reassess on a regular basis.
Some adaptations and changes are needed across the whole home.
Ensure that you have bright enough lights, especially if eyesight is poor. Low light can put your relative at risk of falls or injuries – either because they can’t see hazards, or because shadows can be confusing.
Poor lighting can also lead to eye strain and headaches if your loved one is trying to read or do close work.
Consider motion-sensor lights, especially in bathrooms or other areas that your loved one might go at night. Lights that come on with a timer during the evening might also be useful.
Rugs, cables and general clutter can all cause people to trip and fall. Ensuring that these are moved out of the way will make life safer.
Consider the safety of your floor coverings. If the carpet is old, are there any threadbare patches where a foot could get caught? If the floor is tiled, are the tiles slippery? Are any chipped or loose? Are there hard floors where liquid spills are likely to create a slip risk?
If your relative has recently started using a wheelchair, it’s important to ensure that doorways are wide enough for them to go through. There isn’t a standard door size across houses in the UK, so your doorways may not be wheelchair-accessible. Ideally, doorways should be 900mm (around 35 inches) wide to fit a wheelchair through.
Are you anxious about your relative being unable to call for help when they’re alone? If so, you could consider an emergency alarm. Sometimes known as community alarms, alarm pendants or personal alarms, these devices have an emergency button, worn around the neck or wrist. Your loved one can press the button and be connected to a help centre.
Some alarms can detect falls automatically, or may have GPS to alert family members if your loved one gets lost.
These may be supplied by your local council or charities such as Age UK.
Especially important in the kitchen and around fires and heaters, smoke alarms are necessary everywhere that there’s a fire risk. You should have at least one on each floor of the house.
If your loved one has hearing problems, you can also get ones that light up or vibrate to alert them.
Some fire services may offer risk checks and smoke alarm installation services for people who are older or vulnerable.
While a lot of home difficulties can be mitigated with some aids and adaptations, it may make sense to change the layout.
If your relative struggles with stairs and a lift isn’t possible, for example, could you move their bedroom downstairs? Is there room for a downstairs bathroom?
If your loved one receives home care services, is there room for a home care worker to move around the home easily? If the carer is a live-in carer, you’ll need to ensure that there’s a bedroom for them.
People call the kitchen the heart of the home for a reason – in general, we spend a lot of time there. If your loved one previously enjoyed cooking and preparing food, there’s no reason that they need to stop completely.
If they’re receiving personal care, their care workers may prepare their meals for them. However, your relative may still need to prepare the occasional snack or drink for themselves, and it’s important that they can still access their kitchen easily.
Counters are often at an uncomfortable height for wheelchair users, or people who need to sit while preparing food. You could have some countertops lowered, or use a sturdy kitchen table to prepare food while sitting down.
You may need to rearrange cupboards so that your relative doesn’t bend too much when reaching for their most-used items.
If your loved one has decreased mobility in their hands, using knives, tin openers, and other sharp tools can be dangerous. Many companies now make easy-grip versions that can be used by people with arthritis or other conditions that make hand movement difficult.
Kettle tippers allow you to pour hot water without needing to lift the entire kettle.
For people with memory difficulties, ovens and stoves can be dangerous. It’s very easy to set something cooking and forget about it. Using timers and ensuring that your smoke alarms work well can help.
If your relative can no longer work with hot food but still wants to be involved in food preparation activities, you and their care workers can ensure that they are still included in activities such as making sandwiches and salad, or laying the table. This type of activity can be an important part of their care at home.
If your relative has a tremor or less strength in their hands, crockery made from durable material such as plastic may be a good choice. Scoop plates, with one high side, might make it easier to get food onto a spoon or fork.
Using cups with two handles reduces the risk of dropping them. If you’re preparing a drink for a loved one, fill the cup slightly lower than usual to avoid spills.
Many people find getting in and out of bed difficult. Support getting up and going to bed may be part of your loved one’s care at home, but it’s also useful for them to be able to do independently if possible.
Some beds and mattresses can assist people into a sitting position. Known as profiling beds or mattresses, these adjustable beds can make it easier to get in and out of bed, as well as help your loved one move around while still being in the bed. If your relative is likely to spend a lot of time in bed, it’s worth looking into a profiling bed. Making sure the bed is comfortable and safe is hugely important – it’ll reduce the risk of pressure sores, and can improve circulation.
Your loved one may also need grab rails to get in and out of bed, or a bed rail to avoid falling from the bed in the night.
You may need to consider dressing assistance. If your relative struggles to use their hands for small tasks, look into clothes without buttons – elastic-waist trousers or pull-on jumpers, for example.
There are a wide range of assistive devices to help put on socks and shoes, as well as hooks designed to make zips easier to pull.
Most people are aware of the risks in bathrooms. Plenty of people who are younger and non-disabled also have the occasional fall or injury while showering or bathing, but we can reduce these risks.
For people who struggle to move from sitting to standing, using the toilet can be difficult. Grab rails can help with the position change, and a raised toilet seat means that there’s less of a distance to bend.
If they can’t always get to the toilet, a commode (a chair with a covered toilet) could be an option.
Taps may be difficult to turn. You can purchase easy-turn handles which may help.
Non-slip mats in the bath and shower can reduce the risk of falling, or a shower chair may be more helpful.
Some people may convert a bathroom into a wetroom, where there’s no shower tray to climb over, or to install an accessible bath with a side opening.
For some people with memory problems, running a bath can be dangerous. It’s not uncommon for people to put the plug in, turn on the taps, and forget about the running water until the bath floods. However, you can buy special plugs which monitor the water level and only allow it to get to a certain height.
You may also choose to limit the temperature with a thermostatic valve to avoid scalding.
It’s important to ensure that your loved one has a comfortable chair or sofa. Some chairs can rise or tilt to help people sit down and stand up.
Can they reach things that they might want, such as books, remotes or blankets? Is there room to store mobility aids?
If you’ve already replaced a chair or sofa, is there still room for family members, visitors or carers to sit with your loved one?
Hallways may be confusing if your loved one is experiencing memory problems. Many hallways have multiple doors that look the same – can you use signs or pictures on doors as a reminder of which room is which?
An extra banister or a stair lift may be helpful if your loved one struggles to climb the stairs.
If your relative uses a wheelchair and isn’t easily able to transfer to a stair lift, is there room in the home for a wheelchair lift? If not, you may need to consider moving their bedroom and bathroom downstairs.
If the home has steps to the entrance, can your relative manage these? Would a grab rail be helpful? Can you install a ramp by the front and back doors?
There are lots of adaptations you can make to complement your relative’s care at home. If they are receiving care and support from a home care service, your home care workers may also be able to offer advice.
Making your home safe and comfortable, along with high quality home care, can ensure that your loved one remains as independent as possible.
To make sure a house is safe for an older person who’s receiving care at home, look at your home room-by-room. In each room, consider the risks, and whether the person can do what they need to in that room. Are they able to move around the room easily? You may need to reassess the home on a regular basis as the person’s needs change.
To make sure your home is safe for domiciliary care assistants (also known as home care workers), ensure that you discuss your care needs with them thoroughly before your first care visit. Making adaptations to your home to support your needs can help your care worker provide a safe service – for example, using a shower chair when washing will make the activity easier for both of you. Your care assistant should be trained to lift safely, and will be able to advise on any additional equipment that is needed to support you or your loved one.
For patients or service users who are staying in their own home, keeping as much of their environment the same as possible will make them more comfortable. You may need to make changes such as removing clutter or rugs so that they can move around more easily, but seeing familiar decoration and furniture can help. For patients who need to go into hospital or stay in a care home, taking reminders of their home, such as décor or furniture if possible, can make them feel at home.
Care at home should be provided in a safe environment. To consider whether the environment is safe for care, think about whether there are any dangers in each room and is there space for the necessary activity? Can the service user still use the room for its intended purpose, and, if not, is there anything that can be done to support them to do this? Safe and effective care at home should encourage independence in service users.
Get in touch with Tiggo Care today to see how we can help you or your loved one.