Welcome to Bringing Parents Home. We are here to help you with the transition of bringing your elderly parents into your home.
A resource for caregivers & families
Home Improvement

Bedroom Preparation

The two functions of the bedroom are sleeping and dressing.

As simple as these functions are, there is much to consider in making them safe and convenient. A dressing area needs to have space for getting dressed. The more movement limitations your parent has, the more open space is needed. Also, if motion is limited, you may need to change the places in which clothes are stored. This will be a big help in getting at them.

Having shoes and slippers on the floor may not be the best height to reach them from a wheel chair. Having an elevated shelf 1 ft. off the floor will make reaching and putting them away much easier. Having pants and shirts on a hanging rod 1 ft. lower than traditional height will also allow for items to be conveniently accessible.

If you have the space available, you may want to consider open shelving for pants and other under clothing items. Drawer access from a wheel chair is difficult if the items are in the back of the drawer or the drawer is high and deep.

If your parent spends a lot of time in the bed, it may be important to make the bedroom have more of a living room feel by offering both space for visitors to sit as well as access to audiovisual equipment if they enjoy watching or listening to TV. Lighting in the bedroom is important to have the full range from bright to night-light. Some table lamps use a simple touch to turn on and adjust the light level.

If you have a ceiling light, you can buy a wall switch modification that allows variable light levels and also uses a remote so your parent can control the light level from the bed. As their condition changes, using railings on the bed is an important and safe necessity. There are a number of different options you can use. Unless you are using a hospital type bed, you will need to make modifications to the bed or area around the bed.

Railings help your parent turn in bed, sit up, get into bed easily and, just as important, stay safe in bed. For a conventional bed you can get a railing attached to a board that slides under the mattress. These bed rails have a tendency to move, especially if the bed is able to elevate. Frequent repositioning is needed.

We have a simple option to build a bed rail in our DIY / BYO section. If you are custom making and designing bed rails, you can make some nice adaptations for the specific environment and needs.

Side table access is important for many needs; medication, tissues, phone, pictures, night snacks, etc. and again, a bedside railing may make reaching for these items much safer, so consider the needs and activity level.

Emergency access is always an important issue to review with your parent and all the family members. Having a plan in advance can be a life saver.

Nighttime snacks are often important for health and a feeling of comfort for your parent. What type of snacks to offer is important depending on the health of your parent.

Odor control relating to incontinence or the use of a commode at the bedside is an issue for everyone. Early morning emptying and cleaning of the commode is important. Also, to control soiling of the floor you may want to place blue chucks or some other easy to change or clean mat material.

It is extremely important to make sure any loose flooring material will not cause a fall. Bed rails will help in getting in and out of the bed and sitting and rising from the commode safely. If you have any incontinence items, using a diaper odor control pail will help to contain the soiled items and allow you to stay and help clean up quickly. Fragrant room deodorizers, compressed sprays, electrical emitting, etc. may do a good job of masking the odors but make sure the “new” odors are not irritating to your parents.

As your parent’s condition changes you may want or need to use a commode to make a safe and convenient environment. The use of a bedside commode is helpful as well as risky. Depending on the mobility ability, a commode may move or slip as your parent pushes or leans on the commode railings, creating a very unsafe situation.

Making sure there are stable and secure hand railings or bed railings close to the commode will make using the commode much safer. Review the bed railing options in the DIY section for additional information and ideas.

The elderly and ill are especially sensitive to a draft. Air from a heating/cooling vent, an open window or even a slight draft coming from an electrical outlet may be irritating to your parent. You can use minimally expanding foam or a foam cover to seal an electrical outlet. Covering or closing a heating/cooling vent may not be the best for maintaining a comfortable room temperature. So moving an object or an open cover to divert the direction of the airflow will help even out the draft and keep air moving.

Most elderly parents are sensitive to the ambient temperature and want a warmer temperature than makes you comfortable. When they are in bed, having heavy covers may be uncomfortable and bothersome. Using a room heater may be a way of making them comfortable without increasing the whole house temperature.

There are a number of different types of room heaters you can buy, but you should consider buying a room heater with a remote control option so your parent can easily maintain a comfortable temperature from their chair or bed. Having good ambient lighting is important for emotion, and also having a nice view of outside activities helps to divert attention and improve attitude. Remember when you were sick as a child and you liked to look outside the bedroom window.

Night lights are important in many conditions. They help your parent navigate and you to offer assistance without harsh, bright lights. There are many types of night lights. Auto-on lights are very convenient in controlling electrical costs. You may also find some that allow for various light levels; they are convenient so you can adjust the level as the need or the environment changes. Audiovisual tools are important for a comfortable and restful environment. Having multiple remote controls can create a frustrating situation. There are many aftermarket remote controls that can operate multiple AV devices. Some use a convenient touch screen interface. Once trained, a touch screen interface is very intuitive for the elderly.

Using a tablet (iPad) for accessing the Internet for common activities (email, Skype, Facetime, etc.) is a convenient format for the elderly who have issues with weight and find holding a notebook in a chair or bed uncomfortable. There are a number of over-the-bed or chair tables and lap aids that help if they wish to continue to use their laptop. With your parent possibly spending more and more time in bed, it is very important to have the best possible mattress to avoid bed sores and subsequent health-related issues.

With many of today’s new mattress materials it is cost effective to provide quality, comfort and convenience. One of the best considerations is an alternating pressure mattress. However, until they need a high-priced alternating pressure mattress you can use any one of the popular pressure equalizing mattresses. The adjustable air pressure mattresses allow you to manually vary the pressure from time to time, thus aiding in comfort and pressure relief.

Be careful when choosing bedding material to select material that is both lightweight and warm. Many of these products will have a slightly higher price, but the resulting performance will be improved considerably when compared to budget-priced products.

Caution should be given to picking bedding material that will not be loose or floor length. Having extra material, especially on the floor, is a trip hazard and should be avoided. When we think of tripping, the natural consideration is that rugs of any type be avoided. Hall rugs, area rugs, etc. Whether a walker is used or not, a rug is one of the most dangerous items.

It is important to “bring their home with”, and for most parents this means pictures that they had in their home or new pictures of relatives, family gatherings, etc. We will be discussing using flexible shelving options to provide access for displaying items. But to provide easy hanging and to allow for updating, the 3M Command strips are a great product. They can be used for almost every item you wish to place on the wall. The Command products will not damage your wall, even if you move them frequently, as you may want to or need to change the orientation, variety, or even the actual items themselves.

As important as natural light is for the orientation of day (and night), it is oftentimes important to have a clock visible. Digital clocks with large numerals are less confusing than analog clocks.

Whether your parents are taking vitamins or medications, it is extremely helpful to have them in individual containers for AM/Noon/PM dispensing. These dispensers are available in week strips that make it easy to have one day where you can sit down with your parent and talk about how the medications are working and you can work together on filling the dispensing strips/containers.

For your parent, it is important that they feel safe and that they can get attention quickly when they need help. There are many options with communications today. Normally, a wearable device is the most convenient and is always available.

A simple and inexpensive option is a wireless doorbell. The doorbell button can be integrated into a
wearable tag and the doorbell can be moved about inside and even outside (depending on range) so you can go about your activities in the home and be available as needed.

For an “out of house” option, the five star systems are very convenient and offer you and your parent the security so often needed to carry out your normal life. You can also, depending on you and your parent, use the nursery type of audio and video monitors so readily available. The video observation is helpful at night or when you want to know if there are any risky ambulatory situations occurring.

Joan Shelley, AGPCNP-BC, a Marquette Graduate, ANCC Board Certified in Adult and Geriatric Primary Care, has joined Dr Fitzgerald at Lake Country Private Medical as a health care provider and is currently accepting new patients. Adding to years of Critical Care, Joan has over 23 yrs experience in the Oconomowoc area with home care and hospice patients. She is excited to be able to provide in clinic as well as home visits.