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Small Changes for a Senior Visitor

Christine Brun on

The new year always begins with all sorts of ambitious ideas for change. What better time to look around your home and ready one small space for a visit from a senior parent or grandparent? It takes a few minor adjustments that might seem insignificant but can make a stay infinitely more comfortable for your guest. Here's how to start in a bedroom or bathroom.

People often become shorter as they age. Sometimes this makes it harder to get into bed, as most of us own taller mattresses today. Consider providing a small footstool to help your guest step up and into bed. This could be a simple kitchen utility stool or a decorative version found at stores such as T.J. Maxx or Home Goods. Folding stools can be easily stowed under the bed when not needed. I guarantee your guest will appreciate it.

Naps are welcome no matter one's age. It is considerate to supply a cozy throw for cuddling up. Grandparents often like to nap with little ones -- a folded blanket makes it easy to slip into the bedroom to rest. Put a stylish decorative throw at the foot of the bed as part of the bedding ensemble. If you are tight on storage space, make sure the color and pattern also works with your living room, so that after a visit it can be tossed over a lounge chair or the back of the sofa and kept there permanently.

Most critical is providing a safe experience in the bathroom, where water can cause slips and falls. It is difficult to imagine what dangers could be lurking in a bathroom if you are not physically impaired. First, check the bathmat or area rug to be sure it has a rubberized backing to prevent sliding. Know that it can be critical for a senior to have a grab bar in a tub or shower enclosure. There are models that install with screws into tile or a shower enclosure and fold away when not in use. But I suggest that you investigate the numerous suction-cup models that can be removed once the visit is over. Be cautious about buying the cheapest grab bar on the market -- safety should be more important than price.

For even more thoughtfulness, provide a seat in the shower stall. I will tell you up front that this design is definitely luxurious. Made of solid teak slats and stainless steel, the 24-by-16 inch foldaway seat costs between $2,185 and $2,525 and therefore is appropriate for permanent installations only. However, a brief internet search will reveal much more affordable choices in the $300 range. There are folding seats that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the $80 range. And you can always provide a portable waterproof stool, which are available for $20 to $80. Visit your local pharmacy for simple plastic seats. The most valuable aspect of any kind of shower stool is demonstrating a noteworthy level of care and concern.

If your guest room actually consists of a blow-up bed in your living room or home office, remember to provide a small night table next to the bed. Lots of seniors use CPAP breathing machines at night and need a sturdy place to set them. Be sure to have an extension cord on hand, too, so the machine has access to electricity. To provide another convenience, place a dish or tray on the table for holding hearing aids and eye glasses. Hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars, and misplacing one or two while visiting can create an unnecessary problem for your guest.

Photo Credit: MTI Bath

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Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net. To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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