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Working as a General Contractor within seniors’ homes, there are many different hazards and barriers we face in order to improve their accessibility and quality of life. A top priority is to proactively prevent falls and injuries for seniors. Common household barriers can impede the senior’s ability to live comfortably within their home. But, they also pose a risk to safety and overall health. Living independently can be incredibly rewarding. And it offers a multitude of benefits. Although, when looking to age in place it is important to highlight all barriers and to develop a plan ensuring comfort and independence. Above all, safety is maintained.

Steps to Prevent Falls and Injuries

Our company, Shift Accessibility Contractors Ltd, generally assesses barriers through three courses of action. The steps are barrier mitigation, barrier removal and barrier restrictions. In other words, by taking these steps, we can provide multiple solutions to our customers and ensure they are happy with the choices they’ve made to improve their home.

  1. Barrier Mitigation

    The act of working along with the barrier while reducing the risk of injury or harm. In other words, modifying something to better fit the abilities of our customers by working around the barrier. Through barrier mitigation, we can execute modifications to the specific element of their home which is posing accessibility issues. Mitigation of these barriers is often the most cost-effective method and allows the home to maintain its original bones.

    For instance, when assessing a homes front entrance we could make several changes. Including, implementing grab bars, placing high visibility/grip strips along each step and installing toe boards on the sides of steps. are all ways which we can work to make accessing the home easier for our seniors while maintaining the stairs.

    When dexterity and hand-eye coordination become an issue there are many difficulties that can arise within the home. Everything from door handles to kitchen taps can become a struggle to operate. Small changes can help to mitigate these barriers. For example, replacing standard turn knob handles with lever handles or kitchen faucets with touch-sensitive technology. In summary, barrier mitigation means altering a barrier to better fit the customers’ specific needs and abilities.

  2. Barrier Removal

    The complete removal and replacement of the barrier within the home. In other words, the barrier cannot be mitigated or changed in its’ current state. In this case, the old barrier needs to be completely taken out and a new system installed to prevent falls and injuries in seniors.

    For example, one major issue seniors face is front doorways. Doorways can rest over 30 inches above the ground, often with a set of stairs leading up to them. In addition, the threshold to step up into the house is 3″ to 6”, which a senior will need to step over to access the inside of the home. There are a few options for removing this barrier. First, replacing these stairs with extended step stairs, which allows for walkers to fully rest on each step before continuing up to the next one. Second, is with a ramp, which can accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Most importantly, these options can assist seniors to live completely independently. Remove standard stairs and providing zero-threshold entrances can greatly increase the overall accessibility of the home.

    Bathrooms can also be one of the highest density locations for barriers where tight spaces, high bathtubs and wet surfaces can compromise an individual’s safety. The replacement of bathtubs with walk-in showers, modification of bathroom layouts to maximize space, installing grab bars and special flooring to increase traction can all be the difference between an injury or getting clean! Minimizing dependence on friends and family to access their home is important to many people and may be the difference between staying in one’s own home and needing to move to assisted living.

  3. Barrier Restriction

    Restricting a barrier is the planning and altering of the senior’s home where they do not have to engage with the barrier without preparation or at all. Alternately, installing a device or technology that circumvents the barrier so that seniors do not need to worry about it.

    For instance, stairs within the home. We can install an elevator or lift system to remove the need to walk up the stairs. Certainly, this helps to eliminate the risk of trips and falls around the stairs.

    Alterations outside of the home are also avoidable. For example, lifts can remove the need to deal with entrances posing a high risk. This is especially important during a winter in Alberta where a staircase can be covered with ice!

    Barrier restrictions can also come in the form of gates. In other words, an installed obstruct to restrict access to elements of the home until the senior wishes to engage with it. A common barrier is finding a stairwell at night. Often, accidents happen when a person is attempting to navigate the stairs in the dark and find themselves suddenly falling down. The installation of a gate, door or high-tech lighting to improve visibility greatly reduces the risk. In other words, restrict the ability to encounter the barrier until fully prepared.

Aging in Place is Attainable

The ability for seniors to stay within their home has never been so attainable. With constant advances in in-home technologies and design codes, it is feasible to provide seniors with homes that can be lived in for the remainder of their lives. Maintaining independence and lifestyle are just some of the benefits of staying within the home. However, maintaining safety should be the number one goal and concern for those looking to make this a reality.

Additionally, technologies such as in-home cameras, alert systems and communication devices are providing more security than ever before. When it comes to home alterations there are three directions to take with any barrier; mitigation, removal or restriction. In other words, revise or change a barrier to prevent falls and injuries for seniors. Most importantly, when developing these plans, we always work alongside the customer to provide feasible options for their selection. After all, if seniors love their home enough to spend the rest of their life in it, they should be able to do so comfortably, happily and, above all else, safely!

Visit Shift Accessibility Contractors Ltd. to learn more about making your home more accessible.

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