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Adapting & renovating a home for the elderly

Last modified: 2023-01-03 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

Home elderly care is becoming a growing concern in our society, while many want to live in the comfort and warmth of a family home. 

In order to provide a safe and accommodating environment, it’s imperative to carry out certain renovations or modifications in the home’s interior. So, how can you adapt your home to the needs of a senior?

Renovating a home to suit the needs of the elderly

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A functional entrance without risks

Around the front door, opt for strong lighting that will limit the chances of a fall if a person has a hard time seeing the staircase. If there’s an eyehole, this element should be placed at an accessible height so that there’s no need to stretch to be able to see through it. 

In the case of the hearing impaired, pair the doorbell with a visual ring indicator, offering a level of convenience when expecting guests.

Kitchen safety

If there’s a gas stove in the home, it’s a good idea to consider switching to an electric hob or an induction burner. Indeed, induction plates or electric plates with a control mechanism greatly reduce the risk of burns. If you absolutely must keep your gas stove, make sure to install an automatic cut-off device for the gas. 

On another note, consider that a countertop and cabinets installed at eye level will help to limit exaggerated movements when reaching for kitchen objects as well as the risks involved in dropping them. When storing objects in cabinets, avoid placing heavy objects higher than eye level. Having to lift objects any higher than at arm's length will greatly increase the risk of injury. 

Ideally, care should be given to minimize the number of objects at ground level. In this regard, it should be noted that it may be appropriate to integrate garbage cans and recycle or compost bins inside of a cupboard specially equipped with rails. This can then be concealed under the waste basin following use.

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An accessible bathroom

If possible, we’d recommend installing a walk-in shower. The advantage of this shower is it doesn’t require a step-up, reducing the risk of falling. 

Two support bars should be installed inside the shower for convenience. Also, the addition of a non-slip mat is strongly recommended, whether dealing with a bath or shower. A wall seat would also be useful to help in the moments when standing in the shower is simply too large a physical effort.

An elevated toilet is another way to ease the amount of physical effort, the ideal height would be around 50cm. For those who wish to avoid replacing the current toilet, know that it’s possible to opt for a bench-raised toilet. Some models include armrests, allowing anyone who uses it to sit safely. 

Although it’s not well known, the type of faucet simply referred to as the thermostatic mixing valve is particularly useful to avoid the risk of burns. Specifically, it works by adjusting the water temperature with a single control and automatically blocking any temperature over 38 degrees celsius. The water temperature is maintained for the duration the tap is in use. Even if the water supply is briefly cut, it will be restored once the water has been turned on again.

It’s also relevant to know that if cold water is no longer available for any reason, the water will automatically stop flowing to prevent the user of the device from getting burned.

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Remove obstacles from stairs or corridors, such as bulky flower pots or boxes of things. Computer, lamp or television wires should be secured to the floor with adhesive or grouped together in a wire rack (housing or pipe when bundling wires together).

Ideally, staircases should have step nosings, which are baseboards or rubber covers placed on the edge of a step to provide a better grip. Be sure to secure your carpets to the ground to prevent their flaps from causing a fall. 

In corridors, it is recommended to install a few grab bars, the number of which will depend on the length of space to be covered. It is indeed important to limit the length of distance without one in order to avoid too much physical effort. 

Although everyone can appreciate the aesthetic of a standing lamp, these should be avoided. Indeed, they may easily fall or break at the slightest touch. Instead, we’d suggest increasing the strength of the other bulbs or prioritizing the size of the base of standing lamps. Place these lamps on a coffee table so that they’re accessible.

Although wheeled furniture can provide valuable help, as it’s movable, not that there’s risk involved if they’re used as support objects.

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Adapt a home for visually impaired seniors

For seniors with visual impairment, some special precautions apply. At first glance, it’s imperative to have good lighting well dispersed throughout the staircase. When several are on at the same time, they should be kept at the same level so the eye doesn’t have to adjust constantly. 

Due to difficulty in quickly identifying where light switches are located, motion detectors are required to provide automatic lighting at the right times. 

As we’ve previously identified the importance of installing stair noses, we should emphasize the fact that it’s advisable to install coloured bands on them in order to create visual cues, as this will help someone with visual impairment. If possible create colour contrast to help identify each object in a room. 

Financial assistance or subsidies for renovations for seniors and people with reduced mobility

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Home care for seniors (Quebec)

There is financial assistance provided by the provincial government to those over 70 years of age. This funding can be used toward home support expenses. In addition to nursing services, day-to-day activities and domestic chores, the expenditure eligible for this tax credit also includes minor work services outside the home. This can include telemonitoring and GPS tracking.  The maximum annual amount for this funding is $19,500 and $25,000 for a senior who’s lost his or her independence, or 35% of eligible expenses. 

However, do note that this credit is reduced according to the annual income of the senior and his or her spouse if it exceeds $56,935 (except if the senior is no longer independent).

For financial subsidies or tax credits in other Canadian provinces, please check with your local government in order to stay on top of what is currently on offer. 

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Photo: Pixabay

Tax credit for the purchase or lease of property to extend the independence of the elderly

This credit is for those 70 years of age or older and is a refundable tax credit equal to 20% of expenses in excess of $500. The tax credit relates to the acquisition, rental and installation of property in his place of residence. 

For example, this may involve the purchase of a rail device that assists in getting up and down the stairs, the installation of a bath or shower, the purchase of a hospital bed, a system facilitating the use of a bowl, a remote monitoring device or GPS tracking. 

It’s important to mention that the fees involved must not be refundable (unless the refund is taxable) and must not give rise to any other tax credit or deduction. 

Home accessibility tax credit

Financial assistance from the federal government is available to fund some renovations or upgrades in order to make housing more accessible to those 65 and older. The home accessibility tax credit (non-refundable) is equivalent to 15% of the amount spent, though the amount cannot exceed $1500.

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