I recently moved in to my father-in-law's home. It is a wonderful house that he custom-built himself after a fire then a tornado within 3 weeks of each other ruined his previous house. He is a smart man. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was getting up in age. He had taken care of his elderly mother, then mother-in-law. He knew to make ALL the doors wide enough for a wheel chair to fit through. He knew to make the bathrooms accessible with grab bars. He knew to make the closets easy to access and the kitchen with plenty of built-in cabinets. He had to fight the contractors when he built this house, because this was not how they were used to building houses. A 36 inch door to the bathroom? They thought he was nuts. AND it cost him more to do it this way.
Somehow he could foresee the future and knew that he would need these things, or a future owner might. Now that he has Parkington's disease and has serious mobility issues, I am so glad he did these things. The hallway is big enough for his walker. The kitchen is just the right size so that he doesn't need to use his walker in there, but we could get a wheelchair in there if necessary. The bedrooms are big enough that we can help him, and it is much easier helping him in the shower, because he built the special walk-in shower.
I wish there were more properties available such as this one. As I go into all sorts of houses and help people down-size, I am amazed by how many homes are not designed with assisted mobility in mind. If you are looking for an accessible home for the future, here are some common since things to keep in mind:
•· A wide door in and out of the house (at least 36 inches), that can have a ramp installed if and when needed.
•· A wide door to at least one full bathroom, so that a wheel chair or walker can fit through.
•· Kitchen/bath faucets that can be worked with a forearm.
•· No steps up or down in the home, (no sunken living rooms...) that make it impossible to get from one essential part of the house to another.
•· Bathtubs that have glass-shower doors are harder to access. Sometimes they can be taken out, but if needed, will it mess up the tub?
•· Bedrooms should be big enough for a bed and a side table and a wheelchair to be able to be turned around.
•· No narrow hallways. At least 36 inches. 42 inches wide is even better for a hallway.
•· NOT TO BIG. The walking will wear you out. The living room doesn't have to be HUGE.
Since we moved in and I have really paid attention to how the house is built, there are a few things I would change.
•· Where the light switches and outlets are located. I have to turn on 3 different switches that are in different zones of the kitchen to light the kitchen up well enough to clean and cook. In other rooms I have to walk or reach way across to reach a light switch.
•· I would have installed ramps instead of brick steps going to the main door, (but NOT to the front door.) This house was built up on a high slab to keep the chance of flooding down, and that really improved the house, but it made getting in and out of the house a problem for people with knee or hip problems.
•· I would have made the island in the kitchen smaller. If the dishwasher is open, I can't open the oven, or vice versa. Plus, it is so large that I must walk around it to wipe it down. It makes the kitchen hard to navigate.
•· I would have installed a hand rail in the hallway. I probably will do this soon. It will make the house much more accessible.
•· Make the areas under the sinks open so the sinks can be accessed while in a chair.
If you are thinking of moving to or building a home and want to keep future mobility and accessibility in mind, please keep these things in mind. Making these changes will increase resale value, and make the house easier to live in now and in the future.
The changes to the building plans that my father-in-law made were smart, and since he was so insightful, he can continue living at home and does not need to stay in a nursing home. This has especially increased his quality of life and kept him happy. But equally important to us right now is the fact that he endured extra expense 15 years ago when he built this house but it has saved him, us and his insurance company a HUGE amount of money because we do not have to make drastic modifications to the house so he can move about, and he doesn't have to go stay in an assisted living center. In all things in life, a bit of planning ahead for the future is a great investment.
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