Mobility issues and changes in health often bring up big questions on home choices for patients with peripheral neuropathy. Whether it is because of mobility issues caused by peripheral neuropathy or other chronic conditions or simply because of a natural progression of aging, many people face the need to decide to either modify the home they are in or to move to a new home to accommodate their changing needs. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy got some good advice from two experts on the subject, John Glenn (Broker, Senior Real Estate Specialist) and Christina Beasley (Broker and Senior Care Expert).
What to look for: Is my home S.A.F.E.?
The National Association of Real Estate Professionals’ SRES Council recommends reviewing your home and your neighborhood for the following factors:
|In the Home||In the Community|
|Safety||Does the home have elements that present risk such as dim lighting, steep stairs, no hand rails, clutter, frayed wiring or structural problems||Is the neighborhood safe?|
|Access||Are family and friends nearby? Is it easy to get in and out of the home? Are cabinets, closets, and other storage accessible?||Are shopping and services accessible? Can the resident access these areas without driving?|
|Fits Needs||Does the house still fit the needs of the homeowners? Can the owners handle the repair and maintenance of the home?||Does the community provide support for aging in place?|
|Ease of Use||Can doors and hallways accommodate a walker or wheelchair? Can home features be added or modified?||Does the community infrastructure promote ease of movement?|
|Source: The National Association of Real Estate Professional’s Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) Council|
After a review of your home and the community comes the next difficult decision:
- Stay in the current home to ‘Age in Place’ or ‘Live in Place’
- Downsize or move homes. For older people this might be to a condo or to an independent living arrangement.
- Finally, if health or independence is an issue, then the even more difficult decision about assisted and other care facilities comes into question.
“Aging or Living in Place”: If you decide to stay in your current home, what are some of the changes or modifications you can make?
One of the key considerations in modifying your home is to make changes that improve accessibility without detracting from the resale value of the home. Universal Design Standards is the industry term for modifications that are designed to meet the needs of all users. If undergoing a major home renovation, it might be worth finding a contractor or agent who is familiar with these standards to help you decide the balance between personal modifications and general standards to preserve the resale value of your home.
- For the entryway:
- At least one entry without stairs
- Low or no threshold at the entry
- If using ramps, install removable ramps
- No mats or throw rugs
- Well lit, including a light focused on the door lock
- Surface inside doorway for placing packages
- Handrails on both sides of all staircases
- Stairs of even height
- Contrasting strip on stair edge
- Lighting on landing and on the stairs
- Chairlifts are not a realistic investment in most cases.
- Shower stall with no threshold
- Grip rails in the shower
- Universal Design shower seat if it is permanent, or fold down/temporary shower seat
- Hand held showerhead with hose (as well as wall mounted)
- Temperature controlled or anti-scald valves for the faucet/showerhead
- Higher height toilets
- Emergency alert or call button
- Knee space under the sink and vanity for a chair or wheelchair
- A full bathroom on the first floor is ideal
- Interesting to note that portable ‘roll-in’ showers are available if space and water connection is available.
- Variety in counter height: higher counters seem to be the new standard and helps to avoid bending. It is good to have some counters at seated height as well with room for a chair in order to be able to sit while working
- Cabinets with pull-out shelves and turntables
- Easy to grasp cabinet knobs or open shelving
- Task lighting under cabinets
- Electric cooktop with front controls and hot-surface indicator
- Gas indicator near gas appliances
- Counter space for transferring food from fridge, oven, sink and cooktop
- General home design
- Convert a room to first-level bedroom. This can be a former dining room, office or study.
- Adequate, accessible storage
- Adequate lighting
- In most cases, doorways are adequate for wheelchairs without special modifications – however check that this is the case with your home
And if you decide to downsize…
If you decide that the time is right to move to a smaller, easily accessible home, these should be on your ‘look for’ list:
- A Senior Real Estate Specialist (as trained by the National Association of Real Estate Professionals) or other real estate professional who understands the special needs of either an aging population or someone who may have accessibility concerns
- A home that has as many of the Universal Design features already, or that can easily be modified to include the suggestions mentioned previously
- An extra bedroom to accommodate family or caretakers if necessary in the future
- Easy exterior access, including from parking or to drop off points to the home
- Particularly if moving to a new community, services and support for yard care, housekeeping, repairs, transportation and other services
There are many resources available to learn more about Aging in Place, Universal Design, and specialists in these areas. Here are just a few:
- The National Association of Realtors maintains a website for its Senior Real Estate Specialist designation, including a search page to find SRES in a given area. The link to this search page is https://sres.realtor/work-sres-designee/find-member
- The National Home Builders Association also has a Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation. The search page to find a home building specialist with this CAPS designation can be found here.
- National Aging in Place Council for general information at www.ageinplace.org
- Age in Place gives tips on home modifications and other considerations for making your home or any home more accessible. Their website is www.ageinplace.com
- National Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification has a wealth of information and very extensive information on accessible housing and living design at https://homemods.org/resources/links/home-modification/
Additionally, most local, state and federal agencies focused on senior care will have a wealth of information on Aging in Place. Likewise, agencies focused on accessibility or physical disabilities will have information on home modifications and products for accessibility.
A new guide has become available on home modifications by the Administration for Community Living and the ElderCare locator. You can view Modifying Your Home for Healthy Aging here.
The questions around Aging and Living in Place are big ones. It does require time and advance planning – and expertise few of us have. Luckily, the resources to find this expertise are many and available. The experts we spoke with all advised, “Don’t be afraid to ask.”