How to talk to parents about future-proofing their home
I was recently commissioned by Premier Care in Bathing to give my thoughts on how to talk to parents about future-proofing their home. Premier Care in Bathing is one of the first ever companies to specialise in the installation of bathrooms specifically designed for customers with mobility needs. They are on a mission to encourage families to talk more openly about how to make our homes safe for older family members.
As your parents and other loved ones get older, they might need some extra help around their home. They might find some things that they used to do have become more difficult, and even that manoeuvring themselves around their home is trickier than it used to. Cooking, cleaning and bathing are all chores that we take for granted we can manage, but as we get older it becomes more difficult. The last thing that we want is for our loved ones to not be safe in their homes so it is worth having a chat with your older relatives about their plans for life as they get older, and how they might think about making changes to make their homes safe for them as they become less mobile.
I interviewed an older aunt of mine to see what she thought on the topic. At 70 she is still quite sprightly but is starting to suffer from knee pain and recently had a fall and broke her arm so she is becoming more aware that in the future she might need some help or to make some changes to enable her to live in her home safely.
Q. Have you ever talked to someone about where you will be living when you get older?
Yes I have talked with family about this many times. I have made it clear that I want to continue to live in my own home for as long as possible, I really don't want to live in a care home.
Q. Would you prefer to stay home or move where you can get support as you get older (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)? Why?
I would prefer to stay home and keep my independence. I wouldn't like to live with family as I feel that I would be a burden.
Q. What do you think would be the most challenging aspect about staying home as you get older?
I think that it might get lonely if I couldn't get out and about to see my friends. I also worry more about managing the stairs since my knee has been bad.
Q. Have you ever considered making home improvements, such as safety measures or home adaptations to enable you to stay home for longer?
Definitely. I think I will look at putting handrails in the bathroom and an extra one on the stairs. I have also thought about converting a downstairs room into a toilet / wet room.
Q. What would motivate you to make improvements to your home?
I have always enjoyed changing the decor of my home so I think I would embrace making some changes when I felt like I was struggling at home.
Q. Do you know much about what kind of home adaptations are available?
Not really. A friend of mine had a ramp installed outside her home to make access easier for her husband. She also had extra handrails put in. Another family member had a wet room made which gave them disabled access to the bathroom so I have also thought about that. I have seen stairlifts but they aren't something that I am keen on.
Q. Are there areas in your home that don’t feel safe / might not be safe if you had limited mobility?
I think I would struggle to get in and out of our bath and the tiled floor is quite slippery. I also worry about the stairs as we don't have a downstairs bathroom.
Q. Would you consider moving from your place (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)?
That would be a last resort if I was made to!
Q. What would be your main criteria and have you ever looked into it?
I haven't looked into it but I hate the idea of moving out of my home! I think I would have to be really struggling to consider it.
Q. How do you feel about having this discussion?
I don't mind talking about it, although it is a bit depressing! It has given me a bit to think about though and maybe it is worth looking at having some basic home adaptations made before too long.
I think our conversation was really productive. It felt like an awkward issue to raise because I didn't want her to think that we thought that she couldn't cope at the moment. It was good to know her opinions on issues such as assisted accommodation and making adaptations to her home. I didn't realise that she would be so adamant she wanted to stay home rather than be looked after by relatives or other people. I think it is a great thing for people to open the conversation on this topic, ideally before something bad happens so that you know what your loved one would want for themselves in any situation. I also think that our conversation sparked a few thoughts in her head so she might start finding out some more about what home adaptations could be available to her, and even look into assisted living options
Is this a conversation that you would have with your older relatives? I would definitely recommend taking a moment to talk it through, so you can plan for the future and your relatives can make their views known whilst they are still able to.
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