Changes to Make an Aging-in-Place Safe
Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, a place where you always feel comfortable and safe. As seniors get older, their sanctuary can turn dangerous. Everyday items around your house and routine tasks you do start to come with a risk of falls. For seniors that want to age in their homes, keeping the place safe and comfortable requires making a few home modifications.
Basic Home Modifications
Many of the home modifications that make you safer are simple. Each of these can likely be done without needing to call in a professional (although a couple might be easier if you get a family member over to help).
Open up space in your rooms.
The more space you allow in each of your rooms, the better. Make sure there are clear pathways and plenty of space to walk in, the key to being able to walk through an area without bumping into anything, especially in the rooms you spend a lot of time in. Don’t be afraid to donate unneeded furniture or give to another family member. Just keep what you need now and get the rest out of the way, so your home has more space.
Remove anything that’s a trip hazard.
Pay attention to any items in your home that are low to the ground. Make sure any rugs that could bunch up and become a trip hazard are removed, even if they look nice, they are not worth the risk. Also, watch for any cords, it is understandable you can’t avoid having them but make sure to keep them away from walk areas or use cord covers over any cords you are not able to move out of the way.
If you have pets, make sure the food and water bowls, toys, and doggy beds are kept elsewhere. This area should be a place you are unlikely to accidentally trip over them. Make sure to keep an eye out for your pets as well, even though you can’t do very much to avoid tripping over them it is good to be alert on their whereabouts.
Move items you often use within easy reach.
Don’t make yourself climb on things or strain you reaching for items you know you’re going to use. Think about what items in your kitchen, closet, and pantry you regularly need access to and re-organize the space to make sure they’re all within easy reach.
Lower the temperature on your water heater.
Hot water can cause some serious burn injuries if you’re not careful. Many manufacturers set the default temperature for the water heater higher than most people ever need it to be. Reduce the risk of accidentally scalding yourself during showers or washing dishes by lowering the temperature to about 120°.
Add extra lighting.
Determine anywhere that could use more visibility most situations you won’t need to add in new fixtures. You can buy affordable stick-on lights to put along stairs, on the ground, or in cabinets and drawers that are too dark now.
Add traction slips to the bathroom floor.
The bathroom is one of the spaces where you face the biggest risk of a fall since the water makes the floor slippery. Buy traction slips to put on the bathroom floor and the bottom of the bath.
Install an elevated toilet seat.
One of the most frustrating mobility issues many seniors face is finding it difficult to get up and down from the toilet. An elevated toilet seat makes the process much easier and can be simple to install.
Add levered handles to doors and faucets.
Many seniors have arthritis or find their hands getting weaker, this makes opening doors and turning on the water more difficult. Switching out handles and faucets with lever handles can make things more helpful. Although before doing this, it will involve tools. See if you can find a family member or neighbor willing to help out.
Advanced Home Modifications
Some home modifications are more involved and should not be attempted on your own. By calling in a professional to tackle some of these tasks, though, you can make your home safer and more comfortable for years to come.
Install grab bars.
As keeping your balance becomes more difficult, having grab bars in various spots around your house can be the difference between catching yourself just in time or falling. Your bathroom, your hallway, and next to your bed are all smart spots to add grab bars.
Widen your doorways.
If your mobility issues ever reach the point where you need a wheelchair, a walker, or even just crutches, have more space to get through your doorways will be a blessing (and in some cases, required). It’s not a simple project, but at a certain point, widening your doorways could be the thing that keeps your home accessible to you.
Add a stair lift.
Stair lifts are costly, but if you have stairs in your home and can no longer walk up and down them safely, then it’s a valuable addition to your home. Some forms of insurance may help cover the cost of stair lifts, so if you feel you need one but find the cost prohibitive, it’s worth doing some research to see if part of the cost will be covered for you.
Install a walk-in tub.
Getting in and out of the tub is one of the most challenging and risky tasks senior faces. Similar to a stair lift, a walk-in tub is a pretty costly addition to your home, but I am worth it in the end and can increase the ease and safety of bathing considerably.
Install wheelchair ramps.
Finally, any senior that starts to need a wheelchair to get around will need wheelchair ramps installed in various places around the home. Wheelchair ramps won’t become necessary for all seniors, but for those that do need them, they’ll make all the difference in being able to stay in your home.
While some of these home modifications get expensive, they can be worth it overall. Comparing it to the cost of health expenses associated with a fall or a nursing home, doing some of these modifications will save you money. Along with that your safety has to be your top concern as you age and feeling safe in your home is crucial.