Tips for DIYers on Home Modifications for a Senior Loved One

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If your aging loved one wants to stay in their home, even with the challenges of mobility issues, visual impairment, hearing loss, and other age-related conditions, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to take on some home modification projects. If your loved one suffers from any of these conditions, it’s unlikely that they will be able to live safely, comfortably, and independently in an unmodified home. Here are some tips for anyone looking to tackle home modifications for a loved one.

Projects to tackle yourself:

There are a variety of simple, low-cost home modifications that you can make to your loved one’s home that will have a huge effect on their quality of life. Take stock of exactly what issues they have, and plan accordingly.

For those suffering from vision loss, it’s smart to start with the lighting. Installing overhead lights and floor lamps in every single room of the house is one way to make sure you’re helping your loved one see to the best of their ability inside the home. For those suffering from physical disabilities and mobility issues, you can tackle a variety of tasks like installing handrails and grab bars near high-risk areas, like the bathtub and staircases. You can replace difficult-to-turn round handles and knobs on doors, cabinets, and drawers with lever models. You can rip up old carpet and replace it with low-pile carpet. You can install threshold ramps at doorways to ensure wheelchair access to every room. You can reduce plant and tree overhang around the yard and outdoor pathways.

Projects to leave to professionals:

Unless you yourself are a contractor, electrician, or plumber, many of the bigger modification tasks are likely best left to professionals. Knocking out walls and widening doorways for accessibility may be too much of a project for a DIYer. Changing out a bathtub for a standing shower may also be too tough for you to tackle on your own. When deciding what you can do yourself and what needs a contractor, consider your own skill level, the potential dangers of said project, and whether you can finish it in a reasonable amount of time. You don’t want your loved one living in a house that’s under construction for prolonged periods of time.

If you do end up needing a contractor, you should know how to hire a good one. Do your research — both online and in person. Talk to friends and neighbors to see if anyone has experience with the contractor. Get multiple quotes and be wary of any contractor whose quote falls outside the norm (either too low or high).

Would it be best to start the modification in a new home?

There are many advantages to simply “starting from scratch,” if you will, when it comes to modifying a home for a senior loved one. For one, it’s usually beneficial for seniors to downsize. With less house, there’s less to manage. Part of what makes living independently with mobility issues so difficult is the amount of upkeep necessary in most houses. Also, moving your senior to a new home allows you to be picky about the specifications of the home, for instance, making sure it’s only one floor and that all the rooms are accessible. If moving is in the cards, be sure to shop around for moving companies.

Weigh the pros and cons, including the costs, of both modifying their existing home and downsizing to a smaller, more accessible home. Talk to your loved one and see what they want. Ultimately, you’ll want to go with whichever option makes them feel the most comfortable. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

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