Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home, especially for many senior citizens who prefer to stay in their houses. But from steep stairs to inadequate lighting, studies show that most homes are not designed to accommodate people over 65.
That’s where Roy Carreiro and HouseWorks, a Boston-based home-care company that helps seniors live independently, come in. Carreiro, 34, is part of a team that installs home modifications so those with physical limitations can continue to live safely.
“When I approach many seniors about modifying their home by adding grab bars or replacing doorknobs with pull handles, they often say, ‘I’ve been in this house for 40 years, I never needed it before and I don’t need it now,’ ’’ said Carreiro.
But research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that such adaptations may prevent almost half of all home accidents among seniors.
What’s on your list of recent changes?
This morning I went to two different houses; I installed a hand-held shower in the first and put in a tub seat for the second. For another, more unusual job, I had a client who had frequent dizzy spells. After listening to her dilemma, I ended up installing four bars on the kitchen wall like a ladder so she could pull herself up after falling and sit back down at the kitchen table. Because of this, she was able to still enjoy her morning routine that she had kept for years.
One of your tasks is cleaning out clutter. How do you convince clients to start sorting and organizing?
It’s all about pushing in the right direction. They might have a newspaper that is 20 years old. I’ll ask, “Can I throw this out?’’ We can spend 10 minutes negotiating about one trivial item. There’s a lot of give and take; maybe I’ll end up throwing out the paper but keeping an old sock.
What’s the worst case of hoarding you’ve seen?
The home of a 93-year-old man. I opened the door and vomited from the smell of rotting food. He would go into restaurant Dumpsters and bring the garbage into the house. We got the place cleaned up, but sadly, he was just going to start all over again.
You are 34. Has your job changed the way you view aging?
Absolutely. It has made me realize that everything you do today adds up later. I see people who never did anything but sit around, and they have huge health problems. I now take better care of myself and always try to be aware of the environment I live in.