Practicality of the Home
Despite the availability of ramps, rails and house alterations, some homes are simply not practical for older, frailer people. Steps and stairs are often the biggest hurdle, some houses have steep access and others have large maintenance bills looming. Some houses are located a long way from services and people feel isolated and cut off.
Home Alterations / Occupational Therapy
Alterations to your home may also become necessary, as may the provision of some equipment in order to assist and ensure safety. Occupational Therapists can access and in some cases can approve funding for some of the alterations/equipment. There are also a wide range of devices, appliances, equipment and general aids to make life easier and safer.
Adapting the Home
If the home can be made suitable with appropriate equipment or modifications, staying in the existing home can have many advantages.
Occupational Therapists provide advice on ways of managing with day to day tasks. They can also make recommendations on funding for essential modifications for the home. If anyone is experiencing any difficulty at all in managing within their own home, they are advised to contact their GP for a referral to a Community Occupational Therapist, or alternatively contact a private Occupational Therapist.
The numerous changes that can be made (and funded) by the Ministry of Health are:
- Improving outside access by installing ramps, railings, grips, wheelchair access and in very special cases, even driveways.
- Ensuring bathrooms are safe by making modifications to showers, baths, etc. and providing safety equipment.
- Eliminating potential hazards, e.g. loose mats, protruding sharp edges etc.
In many cases equipment can be loaned or hired, and it is always advisable to talk with a qualified Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist to discuss individual needs first. For more information see: Ministry of Health assistance.
Essential Factors to be Considered in the Kitchen
Proper planning and organisation of the kitchen is essential. The arrangements that have been in place for much of a person's adult life may not be suitable in older age. Important factors to be considered are:
- Maximum horizontal and vertical ranges.
- Kitchen layout on a three point walk triangle.
- Storage facilities that eliminate reaching above or below easy reach positions, with frequently used items near at hand. Utilising special bin drawers that can slide in and out with ease.
- There is a wide range of specialised cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils for people with weaker grip, or for people with limited use of hands and arms. These include wide grip cutlery, utensils with special non-slip grip surfaces, specialised cutting boards, can openers, bottle openers, bowls, pourers etc.
- Many devices help to ensure safety such as pot stabilisers, long handled tongs, strainers, pan lifters etc.
- Microwave ovens are now commonplace and although some older people still see them as "new technology", microwave ovens can significantly make cooking easier and safer.The advantage of being able to heat frozen meals or "leftovers" quickly and easily means that microwave ovens are a real advantage for elderly people living alone.
- Many older people use a small cook and grill oven for cooking or reheating meals.
Section and Garden Care
Section and garden care often becomes a worry for the older person.
One of the most common problems for older people is keeping the lawns, garden and hedges under control. Many qualify for Disability Allowance to pay for a gardener to maintain the section. Gardeners must be able to provide a receipt. This can also be extended to cleaning of outside windows. Again there are a variety of home maintenance contractors in any area.
There are numerous gardening/lawn services available in your area. Assistance may be available through Disability Allowance via WINZ for these services.
See also NZ Disability Allowance and Help Maintaining Your House and Garden.