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Suggestions for Large and Small Changes at Home

May 24, 1999|JANE E. ALLEN

Here is an overview of home modifications and devices available from medical suppliers and contractors that can help aging seniors remain at home:

* Home entrance: addition of handrails, lower-rise steps or replacement of front stairs with sloped inclines or ramps. Installation of special lighting. Installation of exterior chairlifts that take a person from the ground to a porch or deck. Creation of a shelf for holding groceries or bags while the front door is opened.

* Interior: removing the lip in flooring between rooms and making sure corridors are passable. Widening doorways with special swing-back hinges that create an extra 2 1/2 inches for a wheelchair to pass through, or removing doors. Putting in flooring that is not slippery. Removing clutter.

* Interior staircase: installation of chairlifts, incline platform lifts or elevators.

* Bathroom: addition of two to four strategically placed grab bars near the shower or tub to help in rising from a sitting position. Adding a higher seat to the toilet or replacing it with a specially designed model 2 1/2 to 3 inches higher than a conventional toilet. Installing a barrier-free shower that allows a person to roll a waterproof wheelchair into place for bathing. Putting in a bathtub that will accommodate a special chair that allows a person to transfer into the tub or use a special tub chair that can be raised and lowered into the water. Replacing fixed shower heads with hand-held ones. Installing scald-free faucets to avoid burns.

* Kitchen: adding pullout shelves or baskets so that stored goods can be reached without a person having to bend. Creating a counter-top work space and islands with open space below so a seated person can sit and prepare food. Installing kitchen cabinets that can be raised and lowered with a crank mechanism or using a safe ladder-like step stool. Installing counter lighting. Lowering the sink so a seated person can reach it; replacing conventional faucets with single-lever faucets. Adding mechanism to secure stove-top pots and pans.

* Pool: installation of systems to transfer a person from a wheelchair to the pool and then lower him or her into the water.

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