How to make your home more accessible for elderly or disabled visitors

During this Covid-19 Pandemic we’ve been mostly at home and we’ve not had to worry about visiting other people’s homes and the worries that come with that for a person with a disability. Now the world is slowly opening up again and we’re getting ready to spend time with family and friends again. However, the reality for many disabled people is that there isn’t an end to the lockdown – staying at home is still the safest place to be, perhaps friend’s and family’s homes aren’t accessible.

So, I wanted to put together a quick guide for how you can help your disabled friends or family members, or how to make your home more accessible for elderly parents or grandparents.

Firstly – ASK the person what they need. I can’t stress this enough. Everyone has different needs and my ideas might not work for all, but when in doubt – ASK.

For us, there are a few things we need to think about when visiting someone else’s house …

The primary issue is not necessarily getting in and out of the house, as there’s ways and means around that (usually brute force on my part or support from others to help him inside or to the garden) – but if there’s a downstairs loo or not.  Getting Mr WCH up a set of stairs is a long and tricky issue, we have to physically carry him up. We have a great new gadget now that we bought just before lockdown in 2020 so haven’t had a chance to use it yet, it’s a stair climbing chair (see this post here) . We are looking forward to getting to a friend’s house to try it out!

We have a couple of sets of friends whose house is a little tricky for him now, so people tend to visit us. It’s mainly around the lack of handrails and no downstairs toilet.  Clearly there’s not much that can be done to fix the toilet situation. We just deal with it by using a portable urinal such as this or we’ve found this great new product on Instagram that’ll soon be available for adults, or we carry him up the stairs and I help him as there’s unlikely to be a grab rail.

But – there are some things that people can do to make their homes more accessible for disabled or elderly friends or relatives, particularly if they are frequent visitors or guests to your home:

Look at access points into your home

Mr WCH’s mother’s home has a stepped front door and small hallway that might be a little tricky with the wheelchair, however there’s a path to the side of the house that leads to the garden and flat entry into the kitchen via the deck and the patio doors – this is the way he gets into the house on the wheelchair – it’s pretty straightforward but not neccessarily the obvious choice!  There’s sometimes other ways and means, we’re pretty used to finding alternatives these days!

Move furniture to make a clear path

If there’s furniture that leaves only a narrow path to the sofa or a large console table in the hallway that might get in the way, then move it a little to the side if you can, to make clear space for the wheelchair or crutches to get through.  It might only need moving a little out of the way, but this will make all the difference.  Also perhaps move the coffee table out of the way and put a side table close to the sofa or armchair (Mr WCH would have difficulty in moving forward too far to get to a coffee table due to his balance issues – and that’s before the G&T!)

Fix rugs so they don’t move

If you remember from my post about rugs, these can be tricky.  If you have rugs on wooden floors, you probably already have something to keep the rug in place, but if you don’t, it might be worth investing in some of the rug gripper mats or double sided rug tape to stop anyone tripping up.

Make sure there’s enough space around the bed

If you have guests staying overnight then making sure there’s enough space round the bed is important as there needs to be room for the wheelchair, or space to store crutches, sticks or frames.  If this means the bed is pushed against the wall to make room, then you might want to consider this temporarily and move it out again after your guests have left.

Invest in temporary grab rails

If you regularly have guests staying that have mobility issues, you might want to think about buying some temporary suction grab rails.  You can buy these from Argos in pairs and are about £15.  They can be fixed to clean, dry tiles and would be very useful in a WC next to the loo, or in the bathroom, over the bath or in the shower.  They’re not the most stylish but for temporary use they are perfectly acceptable.

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Photo Credit:Argos

With these temporary grab rails – Do make sure you follow all the instructions and thoroughly test it before your disabled or elderly guest does – so you’re safe in the knowledge they are secure and safe for them.  They can be removed easily by lifting the lever to release the vacuum and are small enough to be stored away until the next visit.

Invest in a bath board or shower seat

When we visit friends we now take one of Mr WCH’s bath boards with us.  I’ve written about them here.  We carry one with us because if friends have a bath with a shower, he can’t climb into the bath and needs to sit down to swing his legs over into the tub and he sits down to shower.

These boards are not expensive, about £20-£30 depending on size and can be fixed in a minute or two, and a few seconds to remove.  They can be stored easily under a bed or in a cupboard, or even in the shed when not in use.

If you have a shower cubicle, then perhaps you might consider a shower seat.  These can be found on Argos  for example and are around the £20-£30 mark.  

You will know that I’m someone who wants to have lovely grab rails – but for temporary measure the ugly stuff will do very well – and it means your home isn’t covered in permanent grab rails if you don’t need or want them once your visitors have gone home.

Make sure you have a bath or shower mat 

Even if you don’t use one all the time yourself, picking up a cheap shower mat for when your wobbly legged guests come is really important and will be really appreciated.  It’s a small easy thing to sort out.

Think about parking

If you have on-street parking it might be helpful to grab a space yourself that’s convenient to the house and then move the car when your guests come so they can get the easier space.  If you have a driveway then perhaps allow your guest to take the spot closest to the house, or the one that’s easier for them to get in and out of.

Have a drink ready for arrival!

Most important of all – have a lovely cold G&T or hot cuppa on arrival – as you would normally have for your guests, then sit back and enjoy your time together!

These small things will help your guest be less anxious about staying and worrying about falling in your home or breaking things.  It’s important for a disabled or elderly guest not to feel awkward or like a burden, but arranging these little things will alleviate some worries.

What other ideas do you have for helping your less able guests?

6 thoughts on “How to make your home more accessible for elderly or disabled visitors

    1. Ah yes that’s a great shout! One of our nieces who was about four at the time insisted on helping him get up and move around. It was a hindrance of course but she wanted to help 🤣

  1. Hello, I’m a former wheelchair user (in a w-chair for a full year due to an autoimmune disease), and as a result of that illness, I am now a Canadian landscape designer committed to the idea of Universal, Inclusive, Accessible or whatever you want to call it Design. The use of gravel or smallish stepping stones, unfortunately quite prevalent, is a major NO in my book. Large pavers instead should be used instead; their surface can be etched, or embedded with small stone aggregate to look visually interesting without impeding the progress of a wheelchair. I advance this idea to my clients by indicating a lawnmower or wheelbarrow will be much easier to maneouver that way, so that even if they do not think they will ever entertain a disabled friend or family member (but who can foretell the future?), there will still be plenty of room and stability of footing, or wheeling. I also think the overuse of uneven paving stones (also called “crazy paving” in the trade) is a very bad idea, and if people want the random look, there are pavers which combine the look of crazy paving with true stability of a level surface (made by Permacon in Canada).

  2. This is a fantastic post! You’ve given me so much to think about. I love the temporary grab bars as a solution for travel, as well. I’ve read your posts and followed you on Pinterest for several years as I journey through my own chronic illness, and you are always an inspiration! Thank you for sharing this.

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