Living in an apartment may not seem like the ideal environment if you’re faced with caring for an aging or disabled loved one at home. Moving may not be a possibility due to financial constraints, but you can make the most of your apartment and make it more caregiving-friendly with a few simple changes and precautions.
First, make a list of all the necessary steps and precautions to be taken before moving your loved one in. You can refer back to AARP’s list as you prepare your apartment for caregiving in order to ensure you haven’t missed any important steps.
Go Room by Room Checking for Hazards
As you prepare your apartment for caregiving, it’s easiest to go through each room of the home one by one in order to check for any hazards before making the necessary modifications.
For each room in your home, you’ll want to ensure that the entryways are accessible and that all pathways are clear of clutter. If your loved one has trouble walking, installing railings along their most frequent route can help to reduce the risk of falling.
Consider investing in oversized items – clocks, phone keypads, remote controls – that are easier for aging eyes to read. Ensure that all doors and windows are easy to open and secure and that any medications are safely stored. Finally, you may want to consider an emergency call system for added peace of mind.
The entryway should be well lit and free of clutter, any stairs should be in good repair and with access to a railing, and all locks should be in working order and easy to operate. You’ll want to ensure your loved one knows where the emergency exits are, and you’ll also want to have a fire escape plan in place.
In the kitchen, sharp objects should be safely stored, appliances easy to operate, and essential tools within reach. Ensure you have a working smoke detector in place and that any flammable items are clear of the stove.
The bathroom can be an especially dangerous room for seniors and people with disabilities, so it’s worth spending a bit extra time in here safety-proofing. Check if your loved one can easily get on and off of the toilet, as well as in and out of the bath or shower. If not, you can purchase seat height extenders and install grab bars to provide added stability. If you’ll need a tub chair, ensure the feet are non-skid. You can also easily install non-slip strips in the bottom of the tub to help prevent falls.
Ensure that all faucets, switches, and cabinets are easy to open and operate. Remove any small rugs that could pose a potential trip hazard. Consider installing a night light for added visibility. You may also want to consider lowering the temperature of your hot water tank in order to prevent accidental burns or scalds.
Have your loved one try getting in and out of bed. If they have difficulty, you have the option of purchasing an electric bed or mattress or installing a trapeze bar to assist them. Make sure that any closets or dressers are easy to open and allow for easily accessing belongings. Place a lamp near the bed for increased visibility. You may also want to have a phone within reach of the bed in case your loved one needs to get ahold of you but is unable to get up.
Check to see if your loved one can get up and down from any furniture without problem, and consider installing additional padding if necessary. Give them a rundown of the television controls, and ensure that all cords are safely tucked out of the way.
If there are any stairs in your apartment, ensure that they are well-lit, clear of clutter, and in good repair. You may want to consider installing a railing on both sides of the stairway in order for your loved one to have more security when walking up and down. A textured runner can help provide additional traction to stairs – just ensure it is safely mounted.
Make sure that any small rugs have non-slip backing. Ensure that carpets and other flooring are in good repair (with no raised or fraying edges) to prevent any trip hazards.
Consider investing in a cordless telephone system so that your loved one is always able to reach you or emergency services if necessary. Keep important phone numbers in an easy-to-reach location.
Paying for Caregiving
Preparing your apartment for caregiving can be an expensive endeavor, making it worthwhile to check into whether or not there are any financial supports you may qualify for when you’re caring for your loved one in your home. This may help to offset any equipment costs, lost earnings, or additional expenses you encounter while caring for your loved one.
The good news is that even if you’re an apartment-dweller, there are many things you can do to make the environment safer for your loved one. Even minor improvements and safety precautions can turn your apartment into an environment that supports caregiving.