Caring for an Ill Family Member

by Jon Barrist 07/21/2019

Illness or an accident may strike a family member at any time. Or, they may require surgery or other care. And when they need in-home care during recovery, you may find yourself woefully unprepared.

Prepare your home

Caring for an invalid or person recovering from an illness reveals many areas in a house that do not work well with wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches. These include stairs, narrow doorways, and halls without rails. Turning radius requirements for wheelchairs notably, sadly are lacking in most homes.

Additionally, most baths and shower enclosures do not have grab bars, and something as simple as a faucet may be too complicated to manipulate if your family member's illness causes weakness or lack of feeling.

If your parents are aging and ill, or if you have a child or teen with ambulatory limitations, here are a few suggestions of things to do to make your home invalid-friendly and reduce some of the stress:

  • Replace door and cabinet knobs with levers. A lever-style handle is operable with just one hand giving a gentle push.
  • Add grab bars to any place where water might make it slippery, including inside and outside of bath and shower enclosures, and near the toilet.
  • Switch out knob-style faucets for lever-style.
  • Add railings to outdoor steps, and any interior steps, even if only one or two stairs.
  • If possible, replace all interior room doors with 36-inch doors, the best width to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Add rails to long hallways.
  • Make sure seating for meals is at wheelchair height if necessary.
  • Keep clutter and extra furniture out of the way to remove hazards and barriers.

Prepare yourself

No matter how ill your family member is, you are of no help to them if you don't take care of yourself. Arrange for periodic relief. Sometimes you only need a breather, and other times you may need to get away for a couple of hours. Reach out to other family members or to friends or hire a care-giving service for those times you need to get away to refresh yourself. You can not give to your loved one if you have nothing to offer.

Prepare your family

Children in the home need preparation, information, and instructions regarding the ill family member. A child that used to run directly into grandma's arms might be confused about what to do when grandma uses a walker or wheelchair. Of, if Uncle Charles typically gets down on the floor to play with them, but has a broken leg and can't do that right now, your children may not understand. Preparing your children for what to expect in a gentle and non-fearful way helps them adjust to any temporary inconvenience your love one is subject to during recovery. 

If you expect to care for a loved one in the future, make plans to include ADA compliant options as part of your homebuyer checklist.

About the Author
Author

Jon Barrist

Hi, I'm Jon Barrist and I'd love to assist you. Whether you're in the research phase at the beginning of your real estate search or you know exactly what you're looking for, you'll benefit from having a real estate professional by your side. I'd be honored to put my real estate experience to work for you.