Most people become caregivers to their aging parents and are willing to take on the responsibility of care. However, they often need help to validate that they are doing the best job possible for their loved ones.
Each family’s situation is, of course, different. Some aging relatives will need skilled nursing care, while others can remain in their homes. Those remaining in their homes may need varying levels of care, from occasional visits to 24-hour home health care.
If your family can keep your loved one at home with around-the-clock care, you can take several steps to ensure the home is ready for such care. Making sure the place is ready will benefit you, your aging relative and the home health care givers.
You may have to make some modifications to the home. For example, building a ramp to the front door will ensure your loved one can get in and out of the house. Installing hand-holds in bathrooms and showers can help with hygiene. You may even need to build a ground-floor addition with a master bedroom suite to provide that care.
Medicare will pay for any durable medical equipment you need to install. Medicare does not generally pay for home modifications, but other potential sources exist. Some modifications, including ramps, may be tax deductible. IRS Publication 502 covers the items which may be deducted for medical reasons.
If you make modifications to a home, look to see if they are energy efficient. Some of them may give you tax credits. Buying used medical equipment may also save money. If your aging relative has a long-term care policy, it may cover some modifications.
Modifications to consider
Even one step can be a major obstacle to an elderly person trying to get in and out of the home. No one style of ramp will work for everyone. Consider the design of the home to determine the best ramp for your loved one. Don’t make the ramp too steep, especially if your loved one is in a wheelchair.
Preventing falls in the home is the next key modification. Part of preventing falls is including standing aids throughout the home. Examining the home for the best placement and use of standing aids is crucial.
Your aging relative will need places to hold onto as they walk through their home. Hand rails in hallways help, as do handholds in the bathroom for the shower, tub and toilet. Having seats at a comfortable height around the house will also help, as they give your loved one a chance to rest as they get about.
Lift chairs, helping seniors sit and stand, should be part of your plan. Many lift chairs have USB ports for recharging tablets and phones and can provide massages and other comfort features.
If your loved one is using a walker, arranging the home so that the walker’s legs don’t catch on furniture items is crucial. Make sure passageways are wide enough to get through. Take the walker for a test spin yourself. Sometimes minor adjustments are all you need to make the space convenient rather than impossible. You can adjust for a wheelchair just as easily.
If your loved one is in a wheel chair, then outlets may need to be raised, and light switches lowered. Sit in their wheel chair and look for things to grab. If you can’t reach them, something must be done.
You may have to adjust the lighting in the home. Making sure the lighting allows a clear contrast between the floor and walls is important.
Wheelchairs may also require the removal of some under-the-counter cabinets in the kitchen. The wheelchair must be able to get under the counters.
Providing for the home health care worker
If you are looking for 24-hour coverage, you must make sure their needs are met. Having 24-hour coverage generally means you will have multiple caregivers over the course of a day and week.
If you have rotating caregivers, you generally don’t need to make many modifications. Unless the contract for the overnight caregiver includes a sleeping break, they won’t generally need a place to sleep.
Opting for live-in care can cost less, but you will have to provide a sleeping space, which Will ideally be in a separate room. This room will also need to be furnished. You can expect to have two or three caregivers during a week, as most can only work for 4-5 days per week.
It’s generally a good idea to consider remaining in the home for your aging relative. However, 24-hour home health care is expensive. Medicare generally does not pay for home health aides, although many long-term care insurance policies do. But if it can be managed, and you make essential modifications to the home, your loved one may have many more years at home.