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Access for all (Part 1)

To reform a house for a dependent elderly person is a challenge. In the next articles I will reveal useful indications to carry out all types of changes that can be carried out in a home and at the same time to comply with the new stringent Spanish regulations on accessibility. 

 

To reform a house depends on the characteristics of the dwelling and the degree of loss of autonomy and the type of disability of the person living there. Before embarking on major projects, it is a good idea to think about what one can do (there is always someone with special skills in the family that may help) without having to resort to a construction professional: for instance, to install a simple handrail by a steps, placing pull handles in a bathroom or fix the carpets to the floor with adhesives so that they do not slip are very simple operations.

In specialized stores we can find many accessories that will be useful. There is also the possibility of renting special equipment, such as articulated beds or walkers. You have to let yourself be guided by common sense. For example, a person with difficulties to walk about may find more useful a chair or a rigid armchair better than a soft sofa in which one will sink and from which it is almost impossible to rise without the help of another person.

To adapt the home to people with some degree of dependency, it is necessary to take into account certain general rules. Here below I have drawn an worthwhile list of items which should be taken into consideration:

 

Electrical installation:

- The cables must not be on the way.

- Secure the plugs.

- The switches must be abundant and located in strategic places:

At the beginning and at the end of some stairs.

At the head of a bed.

At the beginning and end of a corridor.

- Two ways switches are preferable, which allow the lights to be turned on and off from different places. It would be convenient that they were phosphorescent or with a luminous led that allows them to be located in the dark. They must be placed at 90 centimetres or one meter from the floor.

- The number of plugs must be sufficient to avoid extension cords. It is best if they are located at the same height as the switches or, at least, at a distance above the ground of 40 centimetres.

Lights:

 

- The ideal is to have light sources that can be oriented to avoid glare and adjustable intensity, in order to adapt the brightness to the needs of each moment.

 

The floor finishes:

- They must be smooth, non-slip, without protruding elements (as sometimes happens in access to terraces and balconies).

- Try to eliminate the carpets or, if you have them, make sure they are not bent, that they do not move easily, etc.

- If there are steps, they must be marked and have elements that help to cross them.

- Carpet that are not too thick are the most recommended. It has been shown that fewer fractures of the femur neck occur with it. Whenever possible, it is better to choose a carpet with a rubber or felt underside, which serves as acoustic insulation and reduces the risk of fractures in the event of falls.

- However, please note that carpet is an inconvenience for those who move in a wheelchair.

- Wooden floors are safer treated with non-slip waxes.

Organization of furniture to facilitate movements:

- Put aside the furniture or objects that hinder the passage.

- Avoid objects such as cables, toys, etc. be in places of passage. If necessary, the cables should be fixed to the wall.

- As far as possible, the edges of the furniture should be rounded. If a wheelchair is necessary, it must be foreseen that it can move around the house.

- Electric devices for raising and lowering blinds are more comfortable and safe.

- The doors should be wide, especially if a wheelchair is needed for travel.

 

- Doors of at least 80 centimetres are recommended. The optimal width of 110 centimetres with two leaves, one of 80 centimetres and another narrower, reserved for the passage of very bulky elements.

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