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Is your home ready? Advice for new carers

12:00am | & News

With care home costs becoming ever more expensive, it can hard to know what to do if you are worried about an elderly relative. They may be active and able to live independently most of the time, but perhaps a health condition or mental deterioration has made it unsafe for them to live alone.

Alternatively, they could be suffering from limitations that prevent them from being able to get around without help any more, meaning they require full time care. More and more people are making the move to care for the elderly at home, and whilst this can be a practical solution it is important to make your home safe before inviting them to stay.

Here is a short guide on how to get your home ready for a relative with limited mobility and to make you aware of the risks that you might have overlooked.

1. Grab rails and good grip

The NHS estimates that one in three adults aged over 65 will have a fall each year, whether this be a minor or serious incident.

As you get older, mobility, balance and strength can all be affected by various health conditions. One of the key areas to consider when you elderly-proof your home is therefore to eliminate any potential hazards where slips, trips and falls may occur. There are a few ways in which to do this. Purchase non-slip mats for non-carpeted surfaces, and install handrails and grab rails in areas where they might struggle with mobility. These include the bathroom, bedroom and of course the stairs.

An old age pensioner struggling to use their stairs at home
Stairs can become a huge obstacle for the elderly

2. Stairlifts

If your elderly relative requires more practical support than handrails and struggles with limited mobility, then you might want to think about installing a stairlift. Many families are reluctant to opt for this solution, worrying that it will spoil the look and feel of their house. Other concerns are that it is expensive, an eye-sore, complicated or will get in the way. However stairlifts can in fact be an affordable and easy solution for the home. When not in use, it can be folded away to allow normal access to the stairs and it will get your relative up and down the stairs with little or no effort when required.

3. Be vigilant

It can be easy to leave things lying around when you're in a rush or tired, but get into good practice of putting things out of harm's way if you're inviting an elderly relative into your home. Assess your home for trip hazards such as wires, chair legs and toys, and where necessary make alterations to move these to a safer place. Make sure that everyone within the household is aware of the necessity of such precautions.

4. Warm and comfortable

Cold is one of the biggest killers of elderly people, so what you might consider to be a bearable temperature at home in the winter months might not be so for your relative. Poor circulation and other health problems make older generations much more vulnerable to the effects of the cold, and so check that they are comfortable with the temperature in the room. Warmth, activity and wholesome hot meals can keep an elderly person's spirits up in your home during the winter months, so be sure to give them extra attention when it's cold.

5. Emergency measures

With the best will in the world, it's almost impossible to keep an eye on your relative 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whatever their health condition, it's important to have some sort of emergency system in place in case they do have an accident. Whether this be a lifeline alarm, sensor or simply an accessible telephone on each floor that can give them direct access to you, you need to be able to act fast if an accident does occur whilst you're not present.

6. Coping with care duties

Caring for an elderly person is not only emotionally draining but financially difficult too. Thankfully, there are a number of ways in which a carer and the person being cared for can receive extra support. The government, local council and various charities can all be invaluable resources for aid and assistance, whether this be in the form of financial benefits or other ways to provide relief to carers.

If you do decide to care for your relative in your family home, make sure that you've given your household a thorough assessment to check that it's suitable for someone with mobility issues. This might require a little investment of time and money, but to help your relative live out their days in a safe and comfortable environment it is a step that you have to take. And with the support and assistance of local institutions, you don't have to do it alone.

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