Extended families living in one home are more the norm these days. When looking for a home to share with your older parents, consider that while they may be completely mobile now, in the future they may need assistance to maintain balance, negotiate stairs, utilize a wheelchair or walker, or enter or exit the bath. If you inform your real estate agent and pay attention to these important requirements when house-hunting, you will save yourself costly remodeling in the future:
- In addition to entry doors, doorways to bedrooms, bathrooms and all family rooms need to be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, and 36 inches wide if the chair needs to turn to enter or exit the room. If the door’s maximum opening is 90 degrees (i.e. against a wall), be sure to use the larger door size.
- At least one external entry door should include a threshold ramp, and be accessible without stairs. Even entryways with shallow steps should be capable of accommodating a wheelchair ramp if the need arises.
- Hallways should be at least 42 inches wide to accommodate both wheelchairs and walker. Handrails should be on both sides of the hallway, if possible.
- Look for a home with at least one bedroom on the ground floor. Adding elevators and stairlifts are also possibilities, but add more expense to your home alterations.
- Bathroom modifications can be expensive, so first, look for a home with a walk-in shower to simplify the bathing process. If a walk-in shower is not available, consider remodeling one bathroom to include a walk-in bath.
- The bathroom should accommodate a comfort height or ADA compliant toilet, along with a grab bar (not a towel bar), to insure your family member can sit and stand with ease. Make even a small bathroom handicap accessible with the right remodel.
- Consider electrical needs of an older relative. Easy access to power outlets for personal and medical devices, and easy to operate light switches are important considerations as well. Extension cords and trailing electrical cords are trip hazards, so the rooms they occupy need plenty of installed outlets at accessible heights. Have an electrician add an outlet above the nightstand, or consider getting a lamp with built-in outlets.
- Pay attention to faucet, door, and cabinet knobs. Hard to operate knobs on lavatories and bath/shower stalls should be replaced with single handle or touchless options. Replace round doorknobs with lever-style knobs, and change out friction pull cabinet closers for soft-close or magnetic ones.
Property owners may need financial help to remodel or update their homes to accommodate the handicapped and elderly. Grants funded by several government agencies may cover the construction and renovation costs, including labor and administrative expenses. They may cover purchases of equipment and supplies necessary to make your home accessible for your loved one.
Most of all, be sure to inform your professional realtor about your needs from the beginning of your home search. Your real estate agent will focus on homes that consider all your requirements, including meeting the needs of all generations living in the home.