Home Accessibility Resources for Independent Living
Long gone are the days when someone with increasing mobility needs must consider leaving their beloved home for an assisted living facility or some other type of arrangement. With good use of universal design elements throughout the home, as well as more individualized devices that can help keep seniors safe, individuals are living and thriving in their own spaces for longer.
Modernize is well aware of the issues that surround aging and thus, the need for good universal design and home accessibility. For instance, the CDC reports that one out of four older adults has a fall every year, that home hazards are one of the conditions that make a fall more likely, and that falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to foster home accessibility and safety – not just for seniors, but for everyone who might live in the household. Some of these options include walk-in tubs, stair chair lifts, and medical alert devices.
When looking at elements of the bathroom designed to bolster home accessibility for those who want to age in place, a walk-in tub is a must. These tubs usually fit into the same space as your existing tub, but the safety features make it a long-term investment not only in the comfort and safety of your bathroom, but also in the potential resale value of your home down the road.
Types and Features of Walk-in Tubs
Walk-in tubs have a door that opens over a very low threshold, making it much easier to step into the tub. Once the door is closed, a tight seal makes it leak-proof, allowing you to fill it up with water without worry about damaging your floors. The tub has a raised seat, built-in grab bars, a textured floor for slip-resistance, and other features that are dependent upon the style you choose, such as a detachable water spout, a quick-drain option, aromatherapy, or anti-scald water temperature protection.
Walk-in tubs are often divided into a variety of types, depending upon their purpose and the features they provide. Some of the most common include:
- Bariatric tubs. These tubs have all the features of the typical walk-in tubs, but are of a larger size to accommodate obese individuals.
- Wheelchair-accessible tubs. These tubs have outward-facing doors and lower seats, thus allowing for easier transfer from a wheelchair.
- Soaker tubs. These tubs tend to be more basic, with low-threshold entry, grab bars, anti-slip floors, raised seat, and anti-scald protections. They are often the most affordable.
- Lay-down tubs. These walk-in tubs tend to be the longer options that allow for room to lie down; the idea is that you can lie down in the tub and get as close to the traditional bathtub experience as possible.
- Hydrotherapy tubs. These tubs are equipped with jets that allow water to flow around in the tub, much like a traditional Jacuzzi or hot tub.
- Bath/shower tubs. The walk-in tub with shower is designed like traditional shower/tub combos in that it has the ability to easily switch from faucet to showerhead.
Walk-in Tub Costs and Insurance Considerations
A walk-in tub might seem like a luxury, but it can also be a necessity to allow individuals to live in their home on their own for longer. Insurance policies vary widely, and thus the only way to know for sure what insurance will cover concerning walk-in tubs is to look over your policy or talk to your insurance representative.
What if you must pay entirely out of pocket for your walk-in tub? Prices will vary widely depending upon several considerations, such as how much electrical or plumbing work must be done, local building code requirements, flooring conditions, and the like. The costs will also depending upon the choice of tub. The most basic options typically run between $1,800 and $5,200 for purchase and installation. Those with optional features, such as wheelchair accessible tubs or bariatric tubs, can run in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Modernize can help you find the contractor you need to answer all your questions.
Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems are becoming a go-to home accessibility resource for potential emergencies. Highly recommended by AARP, medical alert devices help keep seniors safe in their home, thus allowing them to have more independence. The options for medical alert devices are virtually endless; they range from whole-house monitors to small, wearable devices that can detect falls or allow a person to call for help by pressing button.
Types of Senior Medical Alert Systems
Given such a wide range of options, the prices of medical alert systems vary widely too. But in most cases, getting what you need can come at a very reasonable price, with initial fees running in the low hundreds and monthly fees only $10-$50 or so after that – though of course, the more elaborate the system, the more expensive it is.
Here are some of the most common options for the best medical alert systems:
- Fall detection devices. This basic device can be used on its own or with a more comprehensive system. The device is worn on the body, usually as a bracelet or necklace, and senses the sudden motion of a fall.
- Mobile alert or home-based systems. Mobile systems can go with you anywhere you go, have GPS tracking for those individuals who might wander or get lost, and allow you to press a button if something goes wrong. This is good not only for falls but for other events, such as if a person begins to experience chest pain and needs an ambulance. Home-based systems are designed to work within the confines of your home, and allows for calls for help through a landline. These systems are good for those who are housebound.
- Monitored or unmonitored. Some systems offer monitoring, which means when you click the button on the device, a call center answers. The center is available around the clock and will call for the appropriate help. The other option is unmonitored, which connects the individual to a family member, friend or neighbor who has agreed to be the point of contact for emergencies.
How Medical Alert Systems Work
- The user suffers a fall or other emergency event.
- That user presses a button on the necklace or bracelet they wear
- In some cases, fall detection systems trigger an immediate phone call from a call center
- The user’s information is sent immediately to the proper emergency operations center
- The operator speaks with the user over a speaker and assesses the situation
- The operator contacts a family member, neighbor, friend, or the proper medical assistance, depending upon the need.
When you’re ready to boost independent living and home accessibility for your loved one, it’s time to research and compare the various medical alert systems. Start asking questions, such as what equipment you’ll receive, when and how it will be delivered, what setup will require, and more. Modernize can connect you with the individuals who know medical alerts inside and out, and can do everything from answer your initial questions to complete an installation for you.
Stair Lift Systems
When it comes to home accessibility, one of the greatest hazards in a home can be the stairs. Whether it’s a long staircase that stretches from one floor to another or just a few porch steps, they can be tough to navigate for those who have balance or mobility issues. Independence for seniors can become an issue when they live in a home with stairs.
Stair lift systems are a device designed specifically to help individuals make their way up stairs in safety and security, thus allowing them more independence and the opportunity to stay home even if they are dealing with progressive mobility issues. Stair lifts are firmly attached to a rail that runs along the length of your staircase; the user simply sits in the chair, usually strapped in firmly, and then pushes a button or flips a switch to move up and down the stairs with ease.
Stair Lift Costs and Types
Stair lifts can be used at any area of the home that has stairs. Here’s a general idea of where they can go and what that might cost you:
- Straight staircase. This is one of the easiest installs for a stair chair lift, as it simply attaches to a rail that goes between floors. Of course, adding bells and whistles to the lift might increase the price, but you can generally expect something in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.
- Curved staircase or those with landings. These home stair lifts work the same as straight ones, but they move along a rail that is customized to fit your particular staircase. That custom build and install means prices go up, often starting around $10,000.
- Outdoor stairs. These lifts are designed to handle the elements, including temperature extremes, snow, rain, and more. These can be installed on a railing over just a few steps to help you get up a set of porch steps and into your home, or they can be much longer, such as a stair lift that takes you up and down to a dock. Straightforward lifts can run in the $5,000 to $7,000 range, while custom or longer lifts can run $12,000 and up.
Installation of Stair Lifts
You might wonder if a stair lift will hurt the value of your home. It’s important to remember that universal design trends always get attention from buyers who are looking to stay in their home for as long as possible. When it comes to installation itself, there are a few anchor points that hold the rail in place, but often there is little serious construction involved. This means a stair lift can be installed, and later removed if necessary, with little fuss – as long as you are using a professional installer.
A stair lift can be a big investment, but it’s also an investment that can make homes more accessible and safe. Since this is a machine designed to actually move someone from one place to another, the placement and installation must be precise and careful. Finding a professional installer through Modernize is an essential step in making sure you’re getting the safest product possible.
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