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Elderly parents

Advice on future proofing home for Elderly Mum

24 replies

Andywarholswig · 30/03/2023 11:05

My mum is 80 and is in amazing health, on no medication, walks miles daily, has a great social life - all is good.

However, I am really aware that things can suddenly change with older people and both my sister and I, with mum want to make sure she is future proofing her home so she can continue to live as independently as possible. We are both local (about 3 mins away by car) and spend a lot of time together but both work full time and have children at school and we all live in small terraces, so no chance (or willingness) to have mum live with one of us in the future.

So, we all think the best thing to do is do some work now, whilst mum is well, to create a downstairs wet room and do a rear extension to enable to live downstairs if she needs to, and hopefully allow her to stay in her home in the longer term.

What should we be considering apart from levelling floors, slightly wider doors, ensuring the wet room has the appropriate mobility aids?

We are lucky that she has some money to spend on this and has wanted to do a rear extension for years. Any advice would be so welcome

OP posts:
SeaToSki · 30/03/2023 11:15

one of the biggest risks is tripping and falling, so plan for as few thresholds as possible, good lighting, no rugs or mats, study hand rails and good wifi so alert calls will work through out the house. I would also have cameras by the front door and back door so she could see what was happening with deliveries etc without having to get up.

CC4712 · 30/03/2023 11:23

I'd seriously weigh up the costs of the renovations/disruptions/time vs downsizing to a bungalow now- whilst still active and well. Something with a small or no garden/courtyard- depending what she currently has?

She could have a private occupational therapist do a home assessment to provide advice. Its tricky- because your mum currently has no disability to assist with- but they might provide ideas for the future.

Along with no rugs in the house also ensuring access in and around the garden is safe. No uneven/cracked walkways, handrails, ramp for step free access in/out of house.

daisy118 · 30/03/2023 16:54

Not "home"related but ensure you arrange LPOA for finances and Health whilst your mother still has capacity if it is not already in place.

starpatch · 30/03/2023 16:58

I am an OT and your plan sounds a very good one, physical disability wise, if a bit expensive! Yes yes to low wheelchair accessible thresholds. I am not sure I would propose this to my own parents though- do remember that only a certain proportion of people become disabled in older age- so you need to weigh up the benefits against the stress your mum would feel now about the building works.

Redebs · 30/03/2023 17:01

Hand rails on stairs and bathrooms. Consider a shower if she only has bath.
If you can persuade her to carry a mobile phone with an emergency button on it, it might be better to get used to it now, before any confusion or resistance sets in.

cptartapp · 30/03/2023 17:02

A bit of a side note but make sure she really is as fit as you think. I see similar people who claim the same but have never had a BP check for years for example, and it's sky high.
One stroke and everything changes.

DahliaMacNamara · 30/03/2023 17:09

What sort of cooker does she have? A built-in oven she doesn't have to bend down to use would be really useful. Removing raised thresholds between rooms is a good shout too, along with taking stock of trip and slip hazards. Grab rails beside toilets, shower etc are easy and relatively quick to install.
A friend of mine made similar modifications to her terraced house about ten years ago, including the extension and the downstairs shower room. She's about your mum's age, and her mobility isn't what it was, but she's not ready to move herself downstairs yet. It reassures her to know she can remain in her own home for as long as she's up to running it.

GrandIllusion · 30/03/2023 17:16

The biggest mistake you could do is change anything, especially to ground floor facilities.

Older people in good health and fitness NEED the daily exercise of walking up and down the stairs and showering and bathing normally!!

Yes, handrails are ok but get them speeding up when they walk, even jogging, plenty of exercise, swimming, strength based and resistance work as well as increased protein.

If they lose their grip or balance get them to do those specific exercises and make sure they can balance on one leg with their eyes closed, can get up from the floor, learn new things daily, keep up to date with the news and technology etc; regularly get their eyes and hearing checked ( can seriously affect balance) and make sure they do kegel exercises daily because it's easy for older people to lose their muscles and become incontinent.

Plenty of leafy veg, a plant based diet and oily fish twice a week.

This is what everyone should be doing to stave off the effects of old age and dementia. Alot of old age and dementia symptoms are actually life style and life choice related which is why it's very interesting to see how different countries compare.

Cottagecheeseisnotcheese · 30/03/2023 17:21

a downstairs toilet that is big enough to use with zimmer frame is always handy but the vast majority of stairs work well with a stair lift so a bungalow isn't essential, My DF managed until he died at 98 with a stair lift and downstairs toilet, his mobilty was slow but OK until last 3 weeks,
second the comment about eye level oven
check other things how is the garden does she have enough money to pay gardener, if any steps are they shallow with hand rail; lots of older people love gardens just to sit outdoors when maybe not mobile enough for walks, looking at flowers and hearing birds is much better than being stuck in a flat, though flats suit some people ( just make sure there is a lift)

Cottagecheeseisnotcheese · 30/03/2023 17:23

yes there is a thing called "bungalow legs" stair climbing while able is very good,
it is good to think / plan ahead but you need to live now not in the future

junebirthdaygirl · 30/03/2023 17:32

Make sure she has a very simple way of heating the house and never needs to light a fire. Nice smooth entrance so no risks of tripping or falling. I wouldn't build an extension as said..just a starlft. Good to have a chair at the top of the stairs in case she needs a little rest after climbing up before proceeding to bedroom. Eventually a bracelet alarm is very useful and aids independence.

She sounds like a very active woman and long may it last.

Trumpton · 30/03/2023 17:50

My mil loved her side lamps so we put them all on smart plugs so she just had to say “Alexa sun room lights on” etc.
She moved into her bungalow to be near us when she was 82 and managed there independently until she came to us at 98 years old.
Simple water heater for hot drinks meant she wasn’t lifting a hot kettle.
Easy to use microwave for pre prepared meals.
Hot water cylinder set not too hot.
Some one to come in and chat ( local befrienders).
Physically we didn’t change much but made sure when we redid bathroom that she had handles built in. ( She refused any extra grabrails)
Installed EZVIZ cameras so we could check on her ( with her knowledge and the visitors too).
Fall system but we found that clunky and not worth the cost tbh.
Key safe next to front door.
I am sure more will come to me later!

NotTooOldPaul · 30/03/2023 18:55

An electric cooker as it can be so dangerous to turn on a gas cooker then forget to light it.

Andywarholswig · 31/03/2023 09:24

Firstly, thank-you all so much for the great advice and taking the trouble to respond - i so appreciate it. I am on my phone so can’t see names to tag posters individually, but thank-you all.

To answer points made we have discussed moving (at length!) but locally there just aren’t any bungalows that are as close as we would want them to be, they aren’t very common (live in a city), it would have to be a flat and she doesn’t want that and we really want this to be my mums decision.

in fairness her house is very comfortably, central heating etc. and in really good decorative order but it does have a big step down to the garden so that would have to be sorted. The garden is small but it has lots of random pots and stuff lying around (my dad was a botcher) so that’s a great point - will get that cleared and get rid of the decking (death trap in the winter!) and look at getting it levelled as she spends lots of time out there in the better weather doing her puzzles etc.

Thank you to the posters who flagged rugs - she loves a rug! Will have a chat about that and also the point about the low level oven, she has an under counter oven and a gas hob so we should change that when we do the work.

She has a ring doorbell and Alexa so she can see who is coming and going but will make a note to improve the lighting at the front and back door and we already have security cameras in the front room, so can see about extending coverage with her permission and love the idea about the smart plugs for lights - that’s a great idea and will get that sorted - she never uses the overhead lights (drives me crazy!)

I hear the point about a stairlift and will definitely talk about that with her, I think the want for the extension is accommodate the downstairs loo, which can’t be done any other way and I think she sees that as an essential as she gets older.

Thankyou to the poster who is the OT re the point about not everyone becomes physically disabled, I guess we are all thinking she will live to be 100 and will need all manner of help, so it’s good to challenge that thinking!

OP posts:
parietal · 31/03/2023 09:26

Lasting power of attorney is much more important than physical changes to the house. You can't predict what physical changes will be needed anyway

MereDintofPandiculation · 31/03/2023 09:59

No need to get a stairlift yet. One can be purchased and fitted within a week. Even the best stairlift impedes the stairs a bit and makes them more dangerous to use in the normal fashion. So wait until she can’t manage the stairs - which for my dad was 96.

If you do get one, go for refurbished. Most stairlifts are used only for about a year, so refurbished ones are in great condition.

Cottagecheeseisnotcheese · 31/03/2023 12:35

my DF was 98 when he died after short 3 week illness, he was forgetful but did not have dementia, but my mother was there to cook and clean she is quite a bit younger ( without my mother he would not have been able to live independently from age about 96)
aids he needed a stool by the sink so he could sit while shaving
a frame around toilet so could push himself up
a stairlift from aged 96 ( he used it for last 16 months)
for last 4 months a walker with wheels for going out, not in house
he stopped wearing lace up shoes about 95
he was still managing two steps from house to garden 3 weeks before he died and pottering in garden

I second not getting aids too early you can't put a shower in downstairs in a week or move an oven but stairlifts grab rails etc frames around toilets etc can be done quickly

Wilma55 · 31/03/2023 12:47

Has anyone mentioned raising plug sockets to a higher level? Would an air fryer be good instead of higher oven? I'm 69 and find the airfryer saves so much bending and lifting hot trays.
Is there an understairs cupboard that could be converted to a loo?

Mum5net · 31/03/2023 12:55

WCs - consider a higher than normal ' height of pan' than makes it easier to sit down
WCs - there are versions from £1.5k to £5k which also double as a bidet as well which are great for washing without getting whole body wet
Hair wash mixer attachment for taps on a bath if no shower is possible
Low height of bath walls so access is easy
Accessible microwave
Streamline her kitchen necessities if she bakes less and doesn't do family roasts... eg weed out large heavy saucepans, keep the 'cooking for two' options handy rather than the family sized trays and cookware.
Drawers full of dish towels and foil wrap and baking parchment can be reprioritised to offer handy access for the things she actually uses on a daily basis and can't stretch to pick up

I'd think of an AirBnB kitchen rather than a traditionally 'full of gadgets one

Approach her bedroom on the same lines
In the kindest of ways streamline her clothes so the ones she needs access to are handiest and she doesn't have crammed wardrobes with 25 jackets she no longer uses.
Make sure all sofas and chairs are easy to get 'in' and 'out' of...
I heard a lovely story this week of an 80 year old gran who moved out of her house for a fortnight to allow her family to repaint, refloor and refurnish the kitchen, living room and bedroom. She had given them the freedom to choose everything for her. Now my DMil would never in a million years have allowed that to happen, but it would have kept her in her own house longer

VerityUnreasonble · 31/03/2023 13:25

Although obviously she does not have dementia, if you redecorated I would consider the colour scheme with that risk in mind.

Avoid patterned carpets or sudden changes in colour of flooring between one room and the next (depth perception / vision changes can mean stepping on to dark floors looks like stepping into a hole, blue can look like water). Sofa etc. are better in block colours, contrasting from carpet and need to be the right height to easily stand from.

Ensure rooms are well lit with no shadowy corners, paint door frames contrasting colours to walls so they stand out and are easy to find.

Consider low level night lights to make finding the bathroom easier at night.

Avoid mirrors around the house but having lots of family photos up is great.

Consider having contrasting colours in the bathroom, white suites in white bathrooms are hard to see.

Tables / side tables etc. if possible should be nice and rounded so no corners to bump.

Some people if mobility is difficult use furniture to help move through the house so try imagining how you'd get from one room to another, can you use the back of a chair / sofa etc.

MereDintofPandiculation · 31/03/2023 14:57

Wilma55 · 31/03/2023 12:47

Has anyone mentioned raising plug sockets to a higher level? Would an air fryer be good instead of higher oven? I'm 69 and find the airfryer saves so much bending and lifting hot trays.
Is there an understairs cupboard that could be converted to a loo?

And make sure the electrics have been inspected recently and include all possible circuit breakers etc.

ForwardThinker · 01/04/2023 19:39

Homesharing with a Homeshare UK approved service run by a local charity or CIC (not-for-profit) could be an excellent solution. It's where an older person ('Householder') who has a spare room is matched with a younger person ('Sharer') who needs affordable accommodation. In exchange for the room, the Sharer gives the Householder 10 hours practical help a week. This is non-care, e.g. cooking, cleaning, gardening, petcare, and if required, companionship (joint activities walks out, shared meals etc). The Sharer can help all those home-based tasks like changing lightbulbs, putting the bins out on icy day, helping identify a scam (someone at the door or online scammers), to prevent accidents and falls. Safeguarding works both ways, of course, and the homeshare service will do robust checks on both parties (Enhanced DBS, ID checks, two references, financial checks), property checks and risk-assessments. Each match is unique and bespoke, with professional ongoing monitoring of the relationship by the Homeshare Service. Family and friends are involved in the selection process to decide after three meetings if it's a goer. A homeshare agreement is brokered by the homeshare service, setting out all boundaries and expectations on both sides of the 10 hours and any 'house rules' and arrangements. There's a 1 month trial period closely monitored by the service, then at regular intervals thereafter. The Homeshare West scheme in Bristol (been going 24 years) and Gloucester are very experienced Age Concern run one in Oxfordshire. There are loads of testimonials you can see on the Homeshare UK website. Even if your Mum is fine at the moment, you rightly say things can change very quickly. Search on their map for an approved service in your area. Also - the Sharer doesn't have to be a particularly young person. I run a service in Winchester and have a retired carer in her 50s looking for a Household.

Find a Homeshare Provider - Homeshare UK

Find a Homeshare Provider - Homeshare UK

Andywarholswig · 02/04/2023 19:24

Thanks again to all that have posted with advice and experience.

I should have said in the first instance that we have POA for financials and health, that’s been in place a while.

I will get BIL to check the electrics as he is an electrician. I bought her an air fryer for Christmas but she has yet to take the plunge and use it despite admiring mine all the time.

i think as great as the idea of streamlining her wardrobe is, that will have to wait a while as she is still enormously interested in her looks and is really quite vain (she wears her hair longer now to cover her hearing aid).

DS and I will have a discussion based on what we have noted here and make some suggestions to her and see where we go from here. Thankyou all again!

OP posts:
sara746 · 21/04/2023 15:39

We are going through something very similar with a family member of mine and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. I personally found a lot of great information on complete care shop about different adaptations that can be made, they also sell a lot of disability and mobility aids for around the home which is useful to know. I will link the blog that I read and hopefully that will help 😊

Buy Disability Aids and Mobility Equipment  from Complete Care Shop

Buy Disability Aids and Mobility Equipment from Complete Care Shop

We@re here for you whatever you@re dealing with, whether you@re in need of mobility aids, disability aids, or aids for the elderly. Shop our products now

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