A key thing to consider for aging in place safety is home modification.
There are a wide range of ways to make a home environment more friendly for the elderly. These can include removing throw rugs, installing grab bars, or even more complicated remodeling.
An interesting research paper sheds light on just how much one should pursue home remodeling for a loved one. The paper, which was published by Laura L. Lien, Carmen D. Steggell, and Susanne Iwarsson.The paper highlighted that there are two important factors for adapting an environment to make it better suited for an elderly person.
The first factor is the quantitative improvements that can be made. An example of this is raising a toilet seat so it is easier to stand up from. The second is the perceived improvement of any such modification. According to their research interviews, some seniors saw challenges in their environment as positive things because it kept them active.
One person, for example, noted that having stairs in their house is good because it helps them get exercise while safely navigating the stairs.
I can personally attest to this as one of my family members, who was aging in place. I asked her why she had a bedroom upstairs when there was an empty one downstairs. She said the exact same thing to me. Although she was over 90 years old, she felt it was important for her to be able to go up and down the stairs every day. In this case, there may be a quantitative improvement in an environment for installing a lift to carry a person up the stairs. However, this might be perceived as a negative change to the senior.
The senior’s perception is very important because it is a factor for geriatric depression. This is a notable concern among our senior population. Once a senior becomes depressed, the likelihood of bad health outcomes increases.
Adult children determining how far to push home modifications for their parents to age in place have a tough balancing act. They must strive to make the environment as safe as possible. At the same time they must be aware of how the changes will be perceived.
The best place to start is with an open discussion about the modifications. If buy-in can be achieved by both parties, the chances of success will be vastly improved.