Making Your Home Safe and Hospitable for Your Senior Loved One

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Moving in with family members has several benefits for seniors of any age; in fact, it’s a very common practice. If your loved one faces health problems, you’ll find it much easier to provide care when they’re under your roof. Whatever their reason for moving in, there are many ways to make your senior loved one feel at home. Here are home preparation tips to get you started.

Equipment to Promote Independence

Quality of life is closely tied to independence. Sadly, many seniors face a lowered quality of life when health issues threaten their ability to care for themselves. If your loved one struggles with mobility problems, some simple home modifications and special equipment will help them maintain their autonomy. Even if your loved one is in good health, a few modifications to your home can make them much more comfortable. For example, your loved one may benefit from a lowered kitchen work surface, an entrance ramp to your front door, or a bathtub bench.

Do some research and find out what kind of equipment Medicare will cover for your senior loved one. Original Medicare covers the cost of durable medical equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs. Although grab bars are not considered durable medical equipment, coverage for the installation of bathroom grab bars may be added to certain Medicare Advantage plans this year. Help your loved one assess their healthcare coverage, and check out what Advantage plans (such those offered by Cigna-HealthSpring) may be available to cover their medical equipment.

Safety-Oriented Home Upgrades

The addition of a few safety features around the home can prevent accidents that may result in a lasting injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the number one cause of injury among American seniors. Installing grab bars, non-slip flooring, and chair lifts can keep your loved one from suffering from a fall. It’s also a good idea to pick up clutter off the floor and develop systems for keeping tripping hazards out of the way. You may need to redirect cords to run underneath furniture, repair loose carpet, and fix uneven floorboards. Also, ensure your home is brightly lit, particularly in hallways and stairways.

Solutions for Communication Problems

On top of safety and accessibility concerns, issues around communication could arise while your loved one is staying with you. Several health problems — like Alzheimer’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Stroke — can cause difficulties with hearing, speaking, or understanding. Be prepared to adapt your style of communication. You may need to get creative with nonverbal cues or methods of written communication. For example, you could place whiteboards around the home or leave a cell phone by their bed so they can contact you if they have a problem.

Also, talk to your other family members about effectively communicating with your loved one. Speak clearly with a normal tone of voice and use short sentences. Since background noise can be particularly distracting to seniors with hearing problems, turn off the TV when you’re speaking to them. You may even want to ask your loved one’s doctor how hearing aids or speech therapy could help.

Developing a Transportation Plan

If your senior can no longer drive, set up some transportation options so they can get around on their own. You may not always be able to drive them to appointments or social events. If your house is on a bus route, set them up with a bus pass. Alternatively, you may want to sign up for a local senior transportation program. While Medicare will not cover this expense, many Medicare Advantage plans include non-emergency transportation to doctor appointments. Some plans even offer ride-sharing services to members.

Welcoming a senior loved one into your home is a generous and loving gesture. For many families, this living situation works very well. Take care to make the proper preparations so your loved one can maintain their independence and preserve their dignity.

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