An assisted-living community may provide a safer environment for an aging loved one, but moving from a home to senior living generally involves significant down-sizing. That doesn't mean that a smaller space can't look and feel like home. A smaller living space can be safer and more convenient yet comfortable and appealing. Transitioning from a large home to assisted- living simply takes thoughtful planning and useful tips on how best to utilize the space and optimize safety.
Go with simple decor. Select furnishings that fit the size of the room. You can open up a small living space to make it look roomier by avoiding bulky furniture and using neutral and soft-tone colors. Soft shades of colors like yellow, blue, and green brighten up a room and make it easier for a person with failing vision to see. Also, the brighter a room looks, the bigger and more inviting it will be.
Incorporate multi-functional furnishings. For example, if storage is a problem, consider an upholstered storage ottoman that doubles as a coffee table or extra seating when guests visit. It's also a way to keep everyday items, such as books, newspapers, and remote controls, within reach but out of sight. Nesting tables are another option that save space but provide extra end or side tables when the need arises.
Make effective use of lighting. Choose window coverings that let in natural light. Hanging small decorative mirrors on the wall to reflect natural and artificial light is another way to make a room feel larger. Use lamps to brighten dark corners and motion-sensing lights to illuminate dark entryways.
Don't forget the kitchenette area. Easy-to-install adhesive under-cabinet lighting reduces dark shadows that ceiling lights or cabinets can cast on the counter top. Since elderly individuals often are more sensitive to glare from bright lights, under-cabinet lighting helps make a task such as food preparation safer.
Make the new environment familiar. Add a personal touch with familiar photos, quilts, decorative trinkets, and other treasured possessions. Keep in mind that while you want your loved one to feel comfortable and at home, too much stuff creates clutter and makes a small space feel crowded. Use accessories to accent the room's decor, but don't use too many. Otherwise, the room may feel too busy, which can be confusing to someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Consider ease of accessibility. Keep walk spaces clear, especially if your loved one has vision or balance problems that put him or her at higher risk of falls. Clear floor space also creates a sense of spaciousness. If mobility is a problem, furniture with high seats and raised legs make it easier for a loved on who has weak legs or suffers chronic pain to sit down and stand up.
Install bar pulls and lever handles on drawers and cabinet doors. These are easier than knobs for the elderly to use, especially for those with arthritis in the fingers and hands.
Think safety. Avoid furnishings with sharp edges. Round stands and tabletops are better, as rectangular tables and other furnishings with sharp corners or angles can lead to head injuries if your loved one falls. If he or she insists on bringing a rectangular table from home, install corner and edge guards to help prevent injuries.
Make the bathroom a safer place. Check to see that there are sturdy grab bars installed near the toilet, tub, and shower. Test the bars to make certain that they can support your family member's full weight.
Install nonskid tape strips on the shower floor and tub. Individuals with balance problems may need to use a shower chair and flexible hand held shower wand for added safety.
If the toilet isn't a raised-height model, install a raised-height toilet seat to make getting up and down easier.
Sometimes things don't work out as we have planned them to. Instead of being able to take care of your aging parent in your home for several years, it may prove to be more difficult than you first thought. I brought my mother to live with my family hoping to enjoy her final years with her, but it didn't work out well for any of us. I wasn't able to care for her the way that she deserved to be cared for. Our blog will provide you with information about making the decision to move your loved one into a nursing home.