Home as a health haven

No one wants to spend time, effort and money on modifying a home to accommodate age and/or illness. But as home design columnist Cami Weinstein writes, a little preparation now can keep you out of the hospital and nursing home and reduce the strain on our health care system.

Many people don’t want to think about what would happen if they suddenly couldn’t be in their homes for as long as they’d like to without modifications. 

Sometimes the decision is taken out of your hands and you could be grappling with how to adapt your home to a life-changing illness or accident. I am also finding that some of my older clients don’t want to leave the wonderful homes they have created. When they are building a new home or renovating they are asking for ways to age in place. The most common requests are primary bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor. In outfitting primary baths, architects are designing doorways that are wider and bathrooms that are larger to be able to navigate with a wheelchair. Adding grab bars in the tub/shower area and  installing a pop-up seat in the tub/shower is also helpful. We also have been installing hand-held shower sprayers to help with bathing. 

With these, modifications have to be made on the inside of the wall as well as on the outside. The proper blocking has to be put in place behind the wall to ensure it can hold the weight of a person using the grab bars or pull-up seat.

If you have a separate room on your main floor, you can in an emergency make that room into a hospital room if need be.  A hospital bed can be rented for the duration of your confinement. A hospital bed will have grab bars to keep someone from falling out of the bed as well as a motion mechanism so that your head or feet can be raised. The hospital bed can be outfitted with various attachments like an IV stand and exercise bars. There are several hospital furniture rental companies in the area that can work with your doctor, hospital and insurance company to help facilitate your setup. Making the room comfortable is important, so ensure a TV and computer are easily accessible. 


If you like to read, make sure reading materials are close at hand. Keeping a basket nearby for toiletries also helps. A tray or bed tray is helpful for bringing meals back and forth and eating comfortably in bed. (In addition, trays often have side pockets for holding things.) If you are totally bed-bound, there are lifts that can safely shift you from a prone or seated position so that you can be moved from one part of the home to another. These lifts are designed to be easily used by caregivers.

If you eventually need full-time care, you will need to accommodate a nurse and/or aide. Your nurse will need a separate guest room and bathroom to live in your home comfortably while caring for you. Caregivers need time off, too, even if they are a paid professional. Some care providers work in shifts to ease the pressure of taking care of someone full-time.

If you are wheelchair-bound, access in and out of your home becomes important and so you may need to accommodate a ramp. These are rarely attractive, but as with the way you accent your “sick room,” you can make the most of the situation with a little thought. Discuss with your contractor and/or landscaper whether you need a removeable ramp for a couple of steps or a longer exit that can be accentuated with plants or other design elements. 

People are living longer and healthier lives, but that is not to say that you should not consider adding some of these suggestions to your home long before you may need them. With some good fortune you may never need to have a use for these modifications. But if you do need them, a conversion that can be made quickly helps ensure a safer, more comfortable outcome. We are now finding if we can stay in our homes as long possible, not only will we be happier but the stress on the health care system and its subsequent costs may be reduced over time. 

For more, call 914-447-6904 or email Cami@camidesigns.com.

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