Remodeling Accessibly: Preparing for Emergencies and Aging-in-Place

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About the Author: David Perrotti

Dave has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, is a Bestselling Home Improvement Author on Amazon, and constantly seeks to reinvent the remodeling industry. As a veteran of the Army and Air Force, Dave operates his business, Fine Home Contracting, on the core army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
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As we or our loved ones age or develop disabilities, adapting our homes becomes essential to allow for safe, comfortable and convenient daily living. Disaster preparedness is also critical, as vulnerable populations need extra provisions to stay safe when emergencies occur. Fortunately, many home modifications can serve double duty – improving accessibility while also boosting disaster readiness.

Assess Your Unique Needs & Limitations

To determine appropriate home adaptations, have open conversations with elderly or disabled residents and caregivers to identify physical, medical and cognitive conditions requiring accommodation. Note difficulties with mobility, balance, vision, hearing, strength and other functions that may necessitate grab bars, railings, ramps and lighting improvements. Document required medical equipment, supplies and daily medications that need special provisions like backup power sources. Also factor in cognitive conditions like dementia that may require safety reminders or monitoring technology.

  • Mobility and Physical Limitations

    Assess difficulties with movement, balance, vision, hearing, strength, and other physical functions that may require accommodation.
    Assess Unique Needs

  • Cognitive Conditions and Memory Loss

    Determine if any residents suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, confusion, or memory problems that necessitate extra precautions and support.

Create an Emergency Plan

With needs assessed, craft a detailed emergency plan tailored to the home.

Identify local resources like Meals on Wheels, paratransit, elder care agencies and neighbors that can provide assistance with transportation, food, medical needs and temporary shelter in an emergency. Make arrangements for accessible transportation to evacuation shelters or pre-determined family meeting places in case relocation becomes necessary during a disaster. And finally, choose nearby and out-of-town meeting locations to reunite if family members are separated, and share these locations with all involved parties.

  • Identify Resources and Support Systems

    Connect with local services like Meals on Wheels, paratransit, and elder care agencies that can provide assistance. Have family or neighbors on standby.

  • Make Evacuation Arrangements

    Pre-arrange accessible transportation to evacuation shelters or family meeting places if relocation becomes necessary.

  • Choose Meeting Places

    Pick both nearby and out-of-town meeting places to reunite if separation occurs. Share details with all family members and caregivers.

Prepare the Home Environment

To improve safety and accessibility during home remodels and potential emergencies, adapt the home’s layout and features to the meet the unique needs of elderly and disabled residents. Install grab bars, railings, wheelchair ramps, adequate lighting and non-slip surfaces in key areas to prevent debilitating or dangerous falls. Ensure elderly residents can easily access the kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and common areas. And lastly, invest in emergency backup power options like generators or solar panels to operate medical devices and mobility equipment in the event that electricity is lost.

  • Fall Prevention – Remove any tripping hazards like area rugs, raise furniture that is too low to stand up from easily and keep walkways and hallways clear for those utilizing wheelchairs and mobility aids during construction.
  • Accessible Navigation – Keep walkways and hallways clear for mobility aids during construction. Ensure easy access to essential rooms.
  • Backup Utilities – Have emergency backup power options like generators or solar panels to operate medical devices and mobility equipment if the electricity goes out.

Stock Necessary Supplies

In addition to a well-conceived emergency plan, it is wise to proactively gather and maintain adequate stocks of supplies tailored for the unique needs of the household. Keep at least a 2 week supply of vital prescription medications that could be difficult to procure in an emergency situation. Also stock up on medical supplies, with backup batteries and power cords for critical medical devices like oxygen concentrators in supply. Have extra mobility aids like spare wheelchairs, walkers, canes and scooters in storage, plus extra tires and batteries. Invest in portable chargers, backup generators or small solar panels to keep assistive devices powered up in a power outage. These steps help provide peace of mind that vulnerable residents will have the supplies needed to maintain health, mobility and medical care during an emergency.

Utilize Technology

Lastly, incorporate tech-based solutions like medical alert systems, monitoring apps and sensors, and smart home automation to enhance safety, convenience and connectivity for vulnerable residents during home remodels or emergencies. Medical alert systems allow users to call for help 24/7 and quickly access emergency support services with the press of a button. Apps, wearable monitors and in-home sensors can unobtrusively track location, detect falls, receive alerts if a vulnerable resident wanders from home, and monitor vital signs from afar for family caregivers. Smart home automation features like automatic lighting, thermostats and remotely controlled locks offer control over the home environment and convenience, reducing the need to get up and down during construction. Technology options remove worry, provide monitoring and oversight for caregivers, and supply frequent check-ins to ensure all is well with loved ones.

  • Medical Alert Systems – Medical alert systems allow users to call for help and access emergency support 24/7 if needed.
  • Monitoring Apps and Sensors – Apps and sensors can track location, detect falls, receive alerts, and monitor vitals from afar.
  • Smart Home Automation – Smart lights, locks, and thermostats offer control and convenience, especially for those with limited mobility.

FAQ:

Are there specific design approaches that are beneficial for home modifications?2024-02-12T17:15:03+00:00

Universal design principles, which aim to make spaces accessible to all regardless of age or ability, are particularly beneficial in these modifications.  Universal design principles in accessible remodeling focus on creating spaces that are usable and effective for everyone, regardless of age, size, ability, or disability. This approach includes features like wide, level entrances without steps to accommodate all users, including those with mobility aids; doors with lever handles instead of knobs for easier operation by people with limited hand strength; open floor plans with ample turning space for wheelchairs; varied counter heights in kitchens and bathrooms to accommodate different user needs; and slip-resistant flooring to reduce fall risks.

What are the key features to consider for making a home more accessible?2024-02-12T17:13:52+00:00

Key features include wider doorways, no-step entries, walk-in showers with grab bars, lower kitchen counters, and lever-handled door knobs and faucets.

What does “aging in place” mean in home remodeling?2024-02-12T17:13:39+00:00

Aging in place refers to making modifications to a home to ensure individuals can live safely, independently, and comfortably regardless of age or ability level.

How much does converting a garage to living space typically cost?2023-10-06T18:00:13+00:00

Converting an attached single garage typically runs $25,000-$45,000. It costs $5,000-$10,000 just to redo the garage door into a regular entrance. Upgrades quickly increase costs.

Should I replace my historic or antique roof after a storm?2023-09-18T13:19:42+00:00

Consult with roofing specialists experienced in historical restoration before replacing an antique roof. Often repairs, selective replacement of damaged areas, and added structural supports can preserve the roof’s integrity and historical design.,

How Do I Prepare my Pool for a Storm?2023-09-18T13:18:52+00:00

Prepare a pool for storms by lowering the water level, chemically treating the water, and shutting down electrical equipment. Install a pool cover tightly secured by water tubes or weights. Remove deck furniture and secure chemicals, pumps, and filters.,

How do I prepare my dock or boat for a storm?2023-09-18T13:18:16+00:00

 To prepare a dock for storms, secure all loose items and equipment, install extra dock lines and anchors, attach flotation devices, and ensure electrical lines and equipment are unplugged and protected from surges.

Should I cover stained glass windows during a storm?2023-09-18T13:17:27+00:00

Yes, protect stained glass windows during storms by covering them with plywood panels screwed into the window framing. Use closed cell foam weatherstripping to seal the edges before storm winds arise.,

How much does an accessibility home remodel cost in Connecticut?2023-09-13T15:01:40+00:00

Basic upgrades like grab bars and Lever handles cost a few hundred dollars. Full accessible bathrooms start around $15,000. Extensive whole home remodels range from $50,000-$100,000+.

What are the best flooring choices when remodeling a home for elderly parents?2023-09-13T15:01:23+00:00

Avoid slippery floors. Opt for matte finish hardwood, low-pile carpets, slip-resistant tile, sheet vinyl, or vinyl plank floors.

How can I remodel my home for parents with dementia?2023-09-13T15:01:06+00:00

Simplify the environment. Use familiar furnishings. Install good lighting. Provide ample visual cues and reduce clutter that causes confusion. Secure potentially dangerous items.

What are the best home remodel ideas for elderly parents in Connecticut?2023-09-13T15:00:53+00:00

Focus on one-floor living, non-slip flooring, grab bars, wheelchair/walker friendly doorways, an accessible bathroom, and a private suite with bedroom and sitting area.

How can I keep my basement dry during a hurricane?2023-08-30T13:28:51+00:00

Installing a sump pump, sealing the walls, adding flood vents, and installing a French drain system around your home will all help keep water out of your basement when heavy rains hit.

What are the best hurricane-resistant roof types?2023-08-30T13:28:37+00:00

Metal, clay tile, and impact-rated asphalt shingle roofs perform best in high winds. Lightweight metal allows wind to pass through, reducing uplift forces.

What are the most critical hurricane preparations for a home?2023-08-30T13:28:06+00:00

Reinforcing the roof, securing windows/doors, bracing the foundation, and controlling water flow are job one. Doing these things helps prevent total structural failure when a big storm hits.

How much does it cost to hurricane-proof an average home?2023-08-30T13:27:22+00:00

Total price varies a lot based on which upgrades you pick. But plan on at least $10K-$20K to tackle the essentials like roof bracing, storm windows, and waterproofing.

Can I receive financial assistance for home modifications through CAPS?2023-06-09T13:06:01+00:00

While CAPS does not provide financial assistance for home modifications, there are several programs available that can provide financial assistance or grants for such modifications. Your CAPS professional can help you identify these programs and assist you in the application process.

What are the benefits of hiring a CAPS professional?2023-06-09T13:04:26+00:00

Hiring a CAPS professional offers several benefits. These professionals have specialized training in understanding the unique needs of older adults, ensuring that modifications are both safe and aesthetically pleasing. They can help you achieve your aging in place goals while also increasing the value of your home. Using a CAPS certified contractor may also make you eligible for grants and cost reduction programs related to CAPS.

What types of modifications can CAPS professionals make to my home?2023-06-09T13:03:16+00:00

CAPS professionals can make a variety of modifications to your home, including installing grab bars and handrails, widening doors, installing stairlifts or elevators, improving lighting, and creating accessible bathrooms. These professionals are trained to provide modifications based on your unique needs and preferences.

What is the difference between aging in place and assisted living?2023-06-09T13:02:54+00:00

Aging in place refers to the ability to live independently and comfortably in your own home, while assisted living provides a more structured environment with care and assistance provided by professionals. Aging in place allows you to maintain your independence and freedom, while assisted living may be necessary if you require more support and care.

About the Author: David Perrotti

Dave has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, is a Bestselling Home Improvement Author on Amazon, and constantly seeks to reinvent the remodeling industry. As a veteran of the Army and Air Force, Dave operates his business, Fine Home Contracting, on the core army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

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