THE MAINE POINT Aging in Place Specialist Tim St. Hilaire shows the author how to install a bathroom grab bar, often a key element of safety for older adults.
CARPENTRY GRAB BARS RAMPS STAIR LIFTS CEILING LIFTS VERTICAL LIFTS
Aging in Place
ARE YOU READY TO AGE-IN-PLACE?
Strategy Hits Home
Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist by National Home Builders Assoc.
BY JANE MARGESSON
When we were caregivers for my mother-in-law, my partner and I understood that we would need to modify the apartment we had created for her in our home to make it both safe and comfortable.
e thought we had considered everything: wide doors for the day she would need a walker or power chair, kitchen cabinets that were lower, tough carpeting with no possibility of causing a tripping hazard, and a walk-in shower with not one, but two seats. However, as my mother-inlaw aged, more accommodations needed to be made. The threeinch step to enter the shower eventually became insurmountable; the bed was too far away from the bathroom and the entire apartment had to be rearranged.
This is not uncommon and don’t be discouraged if this happens to you. We can only plan so far ahead whether for our own needs or for those of a loved one. Aging in place has become a familiar term. It is no surprise that
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most Mainers desire to stay in their own homes and in their own communities for as long as they possibly can. I recently spoke with Portland resident, Tim St. Hilaire, about this very issue. Tim is an AARP Maine volunteer, but he is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). With this designation, Tim adheres to a strict code of ethics and has a broad understanding of the common problems that can create a barrier to aging in place successfully. Tim told me that one of the simplest features to address in a home is adequate lighting. “This is often overlooked,” he said. “Many falls in the home occur at transition points where the bright sunlight outside and a poorly lit interior space meet.” Poor lighting also inhibits our ability to judge changes in flooring such as when one moves from a tiled surface to carpeting. In fact, busy patterns in carpets can themselves be distracting and make it difficult to distinguish a safe route, especially if one has
There are more than a dozen “medical loan closets” in Maine where you can borrow items such as a walker, shower seat or wheelchair for as long as you need them.
compromised balance. (I’m recalling that my mother-in-law was prone to dizziness and said the carpet pattern we thought was so wonderful made her feel “swimmy”). Stair railings can also spell trouble if they aren’t installed thoughtfully. Tim has seen stair railings that are just a 2x4 piece of shellacked lumber and likely unhelpful if someone lost their balance on the staircase. It is essential that a person – no matter their age – be able to grasp the handrail all the way around. I will say this is one feature in our home we considered very carefully and we actually took staircase safety a step further. After my mother-in-law had one of her shoulders replaced, she had more strength in one arm than the other. When we had the railings installed, they were installed with one slightly higher than the other to make up for the difference in arm strength. This was an easy adjustment that proved to be important in the years ahead. Tim and I also discussed the fact that, often, local assistance is available to help keep you or a loved one safe. For example, many local police departments or the county sheriff’s office offer a “sand bucket program.” An officer or volunteer will deliver and spread sand in your driveway for safety during the winter months. There are also more than a dozen “medical loan closets” in Maine where you can borrow items such as a walker, shower seat or wheelchair for as long as you need them. (Go to www.211maine.org to find one near you). If you are looking for ways to make your home or a loved one’s home safer, look for CAPS trained and certified individuals through the NAHB (www.nahb.org or www.aarp.org/me). They can support you in developing a strategy for aging safely at home, in the Maine community you love. MSM
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WINTER 2018 • 4 8