When creating a caregiving space, design and safety are two important considerations. To promote independence and provide a sense of ownership, interior designer Stephen Saint-Onge suggests creating a separate living area for your live-in relative or guest. If possible, include a sleeping area and a living area (or sitting room), as well as a small outdoor area as part of the caregiving space.
Saint-Onge recently designed such a suite for a family caring for an aging parent, and his tips can help create a safe environment for a live-in loved one.
- First, consult with a doctor about any special equipment needs for your live-in guest before you design the room. Some of the newer technology has evolved into smaller, less conspicuous medical products which can easily be hidden from view.
- Lighting: Equipping any room with proper lighting is important, and particularly for the elderly who may enjoy reading, writing, sewing, or crafting. Philips Natural Light bulbs, for example, offer a clear light, designed to more closely resemble daylight.
- Doors are another important consideration when caring for a loved one. If a wheelchair or walker is needed, be sure to include larger doorways. Also, create open pathways in and around the room. Consider which way doors should open and install levered door handles that are easier to grasp than traditional round doorknobs.
- Flooring is another consideration for creating a safe place for caregiving. Avoid hard tile or any flooring that is grooved or ridged. Area rugs can also pose a hazard to an elderly or sick loved one. Look for smooth hardwood flooring or very low-pile commercial-grade carpeting.
- Color has a big an impact on people's moods and can brighten anyone's day. Try adding a sunny yellow or soft green to invigorate an ordinary room.
- Accessories are another important way to generate a feeling of home. Family photos, small collections, artwork, and books all help to make the room their own. Saint-Onge recommends the Philips Digital Photo Display, a space-saving device that holds about 80 photos and keeps friends, family, and treasured memories close.
- Candles and fireplaces are great for ambiance but pose a potential fire hazard in a home. Saint-Onge suggests rechargeable, weather-resistant candles as an elegant and safe way to decorate with lighting. Aurelle LED Candles are safe for small children, pets, and elderly people, yet have a gentle flicker that makes them look real.
- Clutter: It is imperative to keep the floors, pathways, and doorways clutter-free. Once storage spaces are installed and the room is cleared of excess furniture and possessions, check daily to keep the caregiving suite clutter-free to ensure safety.