Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, a place where you always feel comfortable and safe. As seniors get older though, that sanctuary can turn dangerous. Everyday items around your house and run-of-the mill tasks you do regularly at home start to come with a risk of falls. And a fall in your senior years can be serious.
Here’s a short summary video about home modifications presented by USC Leonard Davis.
And here’s a handy guide for a home assessment from AARP.
Basic Home Modifications
Many of the home modifications that make you safer are easy. 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 the space in your rooms and create clear pathways with plenty of space to walk around without bumping into anything.
- Remove anything that’s a trip hazard.
- Move items you use often within easy reach. Re-organize your kitchen, closet, pantry, etc. to make sure the most used items are within easy reach.
- Add extra lighting. This is where affordable stick-on lights and light tapes come in handy. I.e. along stair, on the ground, in cabinets, etc.
- Add traction slips to the bathroom floor and bottom of bath/shower. The bathroom is one of the spaces where you face the biggest risk of a fall, since the water makes the floor slippery. You can also add traction slips to the top of the stair treads.
- Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120F. Hot water can cause serious burns.
- Swap your toilet for a comfort height toilet. This is something a handyman or plumber can do.
- Add levered handles to doors and faucets. There are also plenty of touchless faucets to choose from. This is a job that invovles some tools, so if you don’t feel up to it yourself, see if you can find a handy family member, neighbor or handyman to help.
- Install a doorbell and smoke detector with lights. If your hearing is starting to fail, then the tools in your house that depned on sound will no longer cut it. There are a number of doorbell models hat light up to choose from.
- Make your house smart. One of the simple things that drastically incesases the risk of a fall is having to walk anywhere in the house without a light on. If your light switches aren’t conveniently located enough, then walking in some level of darkness could be a regular occurance. Smart controls can be hooked into your home and make things like turning on lights and changing the thermostat all possible to do by voice.
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 down. 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 an important 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 curbless shower or walk-in tub. Getting in and out of the tub is one of the most difficult and risky tasks a senior faces once they start to have mobility and balance issues. Like a stair lift, a walk-in tub is a pretty costly addition to your home, but one that 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 own home.
While some of these home modifications get expensive, they can help you save money overall in comparison to the cost of health expenses associated with a fall or a nursing home. And more to the point, your safety has to be one of your top concerns as you age. Proper home modifications do the important job of increasing your comfort, but also the crucial one of increasing your level of safety in your own home.
We are a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist CAPS/NAHB. Please contact us to discuss your home modification needs.