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Posted: December 31, 2008

Low-Cost Ideas for Stocking Your Parents' Home for Independence

Getting Down to Basics

“Be prepared.” It’s the motto for the Boy Scouts of America, and it couldn’t be better advice for any family caregiver who is concerned about the safety and well-being of an elderly loved one and wants to help them continue living their goal of remaining independent in their own home for as long as possible.

Independent living is the objective of an estimated 8 out of every 10 aging Americans, but it’s not as easy as they’d often try to make it sound. And thus the burden falls on their family caregiver to see that Mom and Dad are situated with what they need in their home to remain somewhat independent.

And while there’s tremendous commercial emphasis on how technology is being used to enhance independence for the elderly, the fact remains that taking some no-cost to low-cost steps toward being prepared and safe in their home will greatly aid an older adult to live more comfortably and independently.

Here is a walk through the landscape of important, but mostly minor, ways you can help your aging parent go on living independently:

General Tips

Stocking the Pantry

These tips are meant to be especially helpful when seeking to stock a pantry for a household of only one or two persons with limited mobility outside the home:

Stocking for Safety

Andrea Cohen, co-founder of HouseWorks, a home care agency in the greater Boston area, points out that one of the most important actions that family caregivers can take on behalf of their loved one is to be proactive in protecting a loved one’s independence.

Cohen offers the example of an elderly loved one who falls and then faces the possibility of long-term care in a rehabilitation center or nursing home. Family members are then left with the nagging question: “Why didn’t we make these changes earlier?”

Deborah Kogler is an eye care professional whose grandmother dealt with retinal detachment and macular degeneration. She is also owner of Magnifiers and More in Mentor, Ohio, a resource for those who are dealing with low vision or blindness. Here’s what she suggests might be considered as “basic stock items” for home safety:

Marion Somers, a geriatric care specialist and author of Elder Care Made Easier (Addicus Books 2006), says the bathroom poses the highest risk for the elderly as that is where most falls occur. To “be prepared” in the bathroom, here are some “stock” items as suggested by Somers, who is also known as “Dr. Marion:”

Getting Ready to ‘Step In’

In the end, it all comes down to safety and well-being,” says Jack Cross, owner of a Home Instead home care agency located in Lexington, Massachusetts. “Families need to walk a fine line when it comes to helping, if they are going to be successful. If the family tries to take over, that’s usually not going to work. There’s got to be attention given to what the older person wants, needs and then what he or she will accept.”

As Cross points out, the key to success in helping a loved one to be more independent or to retain independence is to listen carefully and then take action.

Taking just a few of the relatively simple steps outlined in this article will help make your loved one’s home more comfortable and safer. Your loved one will have the benefit of maintaining his or her independence, while you, as a caregiver, will have greater peace of mind.

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Paula S. McCarron has more than 20 years of experience in health care, including nursing homes and hospice. She lives in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and can be reached at paulamccarron@gmail.com.

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