Do you have an elderly parent who will be moving in with you or staying with you for an extended period? Is that parent bound to a wheelchair? Caring for an elderly parent can always be difficult, but a wheelchair can add even more complications. Your home may not have the kind of space needed for a wheelchair to safely navigate. Or you may have obstructions on the floor that make it impossible for a wheelchair to pass. To make your parent feel comfortable and safe, you may need to make some improvements. Adding a ramp near the door and lift near any stairs is a good start, but there are likely other improvements you'll need to make. Here are three design tips to make your home more wheelchair-friendly:
Install low-level phones and intercom systems. As a good safety measure, it's a smart idea to have phones on the walls in some of the most frequently used rooms in your house. The most important are likely the kitchen, the living room, and the bathroom and bedroom that your parent will primarily use. While it might be possible for your parent to carry a cell phone or cordless phone with them, you want to make sure they have backup options for help should their cell phone die or get lost.
Also, you also may want to look at phones that also have intercom capabilities. That way, your parent can contact you if you're in another room of the house. Put the systems low on the wall so your parent can reach them from the wheelchair.
Widen your door frames. The last thing you want is for your parent to feel like a stranger in his or her new home. However, that's how he or she may feel if they can't access certain rooms of your house. Many homes - especially older ones - were built with interior frames that are too narrow for a wheelchair. A contractor should be able to quickly and easily take off the frame, make the doorway wider, and then put on new framing. Do this for the rooms your parent will use most, like their bedroom and bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen.
Also, make sure your kitchen table is wide enough for your parent to roll up to it comfortably. You wouldn't want him or her to feel left out at dinner time.
Install a roll-in shower. Neither you nor your parent probably want to go through the experience of you bathing them. Let them hold on to a little of their own independence and dignity by making their bathroom fully wheelchair accessible. One of the best ways to do that is with a roll-in shower. Your parent can simply pull or push the door open or pull back a curtain and roll right, as there are no barriers along the floor of the shower. You may also want to install a bench and some grab bars so your parent can lift him or herself out of their chair, if necessary.
For more information, talk to a roll-in shower dealer like Accessible Solutions. They can help you identify other bathroom improvements for your new house guest.