Creating a Caregiver Environment at Home


Filed under Living & Housing

America’s population is aging. The U.S. Census Bureau says that in just five short years, 39 million Americans will be over the age of 65; by 2030 that number will swell to 69 million.

When they reach the point where they’re no longer able to care for themselves, some seniors will enter nursing homes or assisted living facilities; but long term care in such places can get very expensive. Monthly fees typically start around $3,000. To keep costs down, more and more seniors are moving in with relatives.

When Mattie Pottersfield’s health started failing, her daughter and son-in-law decided to take her in. Brenda Cook says at first it was hard, particularly because the Nashville home she shares with her husband is small; but now that the home has had a makeover courtesy of Philips Electronics, things get easier every day.

Earlier this year, the company had approached St. Thomas Health Services, a health care system in Tennessee, looking for a family in need of a caregiving suite. The Cooks were chosen as the lucky recipients. “Philips wanted to show current and future in-home caregivers how building a small addition, coupled with current technology, can provide a low-cost solution to the financial strain placed on them,” says home designer Stephen Saint-Onge.

The first thing he did was meet with Mattie Pottersfield’s family and medical providers to get a good sense of her needs, then he went to work on designing the addition. Here are the top ten things he considers most important about designing a caregiver suite:

1) Consider the space your loved ones will be moving into — whether it is a room in your own home, an assisted living situation or other option — and make it inviting, comfortable and right for the person moving into it.

2) Consult with your loved one’s doctor about items that may be necessary in the space — it will vary from case to case. For a caregiver, or anyone who wants a safer home, Philips’ HeartStart Home Defibrillator is an essential piece of safety equipment. The HeartStart is designed to be safe, reliable and easy to use so virtually anyone can use it to help save the life of a person who suffers a sudden cardiac arrest. Keeping your loved one’s medical equipment up-to-date is important in their daily care. Sunrise Medical provides a range of homecare and extended care products that are designed to promote independent and active lifestyles.

3) If your loved one can bring his or her own furniture into the new space, consider what other furnishings are needed from a practical standpoint (i.e., bed, dresser, sofa, chair, etc.). Then, look at it from a “designer’s” view — what will look nice? What will make your guest feel at home? Arhaus furniture is ideal for creating a classic feel in the room with exquisite colors, textures and durability. Be smart about furniture and accessory choices. The basics are needed, but also think about special, sentimental pieces that your guest might bring along. These pieces will serve as connections to the home they once had.

4) Every Caregiving Suite should include activities to make the environment entertaining, since that is where your guest will be spending the majority of his or her day. Consider the Philips’ Ambilight FlatTV; the ambient technology helps make the “at home” movie experience more enjoyable and stylish.

5) If possible, consider creating a bedroom as well as a sitting area in the caregiving space. This way, your loved one can feel as if they have their own independent living –not just a sleeping — area.

6) If you are allowed to put a new color on the walls of your new space, do so. Color has a great impact on people’s moods. For example, yellow can invigorate a space and make it sunny.

7) Doorways can often be tricky parts of a caregiving space. Is a wheelchair needed? If so, can your doorways accommodate a wheelchair’s width and mobility? Also, lever door knobs are easier to handle than your typical round knob doors. Pella Windows and Doors are great for a caregiving room with features such as snap-in between-the-glass blinds for easy cleaning, and a cordless operator gives a streamlined look and is easy to use for those suffering from arthritis.

8) It is important to have natural light and fresh air coming in from outside. Letting the light in through windows will make a big difference. If there aren’t a lot of windows in your space, consider special lighting, such as Philips Natural Light Bulbs. Aurelle LED Candles also are a safe choice for additional accent lighting. Aurelles combine the warm glow and gentle flicker of a candle without the risks and nuisance associated with open flames.

9) If a loved one is coming into your home, think about ways to make mobility around your space easy and safe. Consider your flooring closely. Using hardwood flooring, such as Armstrong, allows medical equipment on wheels to be easily moved around the room. Also, area rugs can make movement across floors risky.

10) Phone lines should be installed for your guest, and cordless phones are ideal. Consider phones with big buttons for easy viewing. Also consider a computer in the space for those loved ones who enjoy emailing and staying in touch with family and friends.

The bottom line is that a caregiving space does not have to be sterile and cold. It can be a haven for your loved one to feel at home, at ease and enjoy being part of the family. It’s a new chapter in the lives of everyone involved, so be smart about the design and technology choices made. Be creative and focus your energy on making the best space possible.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

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