Home Safety Tips for Aging in Place

As your loved ones age, their ability to remain safe and independent at home may start to deteriorate. Bending down to pick up a dropped fork, or reaching up to the top shelf of the pantry can be painful for someone with arthritis. Loss of muscle strength can make opening doors and taking the lids off of jars more difficult. Stairs and bathrooms suddenly become dangerous areas when an aging individual develops mobility and balance issues.

Thankfully, there are a few home modifications and products that can help keep your loved one safe and happy at home.

General home safety tips include recommendations such as using contrasting paint colors and building materials to help people with low vision distinguish between different areas of the house. Room entryways should be step-less and wide enough so that someone with a cane, walker or wheelchair can easily go through—approximately 36 inches. Hallways should be a minimum of 60 inches wide. All rooms and hallways should be well-lit to accommodate someone with low vision. Special lighting installed along a hallway floor can make middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks safer.

Stair lifts and in-home elevators can be helpful for an older adult who lives in a multi-level home and has trouble getting up and down the stairs. Floors in the kitchen and bathroom should be made of tile with a pronounced grout (to help with traction), or slip-resistant vinyl or wood. In especially slick areas, non-skid strips can be used to reduce fall risk. For doors, cabinets and drawers, levers are easier than knobs for older adults to turn.

In the kitchen

The kitchen area can be full of hazards for an older adult. In addition to the aforementioned slip-resistant floor types, installing an oven with front-range oven controls will ensure that your loved ones don’t have to reach over the stove to turn on the oven, minimizing the risk of fire and burns. Kitchen appliances that have flashing lights can be helpful for older individuals with hearing loss.

In the bathroom

The bathroom, with its unforgiving floors and ever-present risk of water puddles, is another important area to overhaul to ensure the safety of aging loved ones at home. Make sure the bathroom is amply lit; especially the areas around the toilet and shower. Counters that are 34 inches high are recommended for people in wheelchairs.

Shower design can vary, depending on an individual’s needs, but a step-free entry is a must. Bathtubs with doors are another option. Faucets should be equipped with anti-scald valves and hand-held spray devices. It’s also a good idea to provide a place for an older adult to sit while they wash themselves, such as a bath stool.

Grab bars can make getting on and off the toilet, and in and out of the shower, easier and safer. Comfort height toilets are two feet taller than standard toilets, and are thus easier for older adults with mobility issues to use. You can also purchase raised toilet seats for extra height.

In the bedroom and common areas

Remove unnecessary rugs, furniture and cords that could act as a tripping hazard. Place top-heavy lamps and other furniture against the wall.

Equipment for promoting independence

You can also purchase additional miscellaneous items to make aging-in-place easier for your loved ones, such as emergency alert systems that will call 9-1-1 if they fall; automatic pill dispensers to make managing medications more straightforward; “reach-and-grab” devices that help them pick up objects that are out of comfortable reach; special grips and gloves to assist with opening jars and chopping food; a bath bench to make bathing less exhausting and reduce fall risk; raised/padded toilet seats; and phones, computers and other technology with large, easy-to-see buttons.

By investing in the right home modifications and equipment, your family can help make aging-in-place a reality for your older loved ones. Hiring a companion or a professional home health aide from a home care agency can also be a good way to ensure an elder’s safety. “Home is Where the Help Is” is a free eBook that offers more information on finding, hiring and managing home care services.

Related
10 Questions to Ask the Home Care Agency
This is What Happened When My Elderly Parents Moved In With Me
How to Pay for Home Care
Why I’m So Glad We Hired a Home Health Aide

Image credit: nateone via Flickr

71 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 1 years ago

Thank you care2 friends :)

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen1 years ago

Thank you

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Monica Collier
Monica Collier1 years ago

Getting older with arthritis is bad enough, being a burden is worse. Thank you for these tips.

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Muff-Anne York-Haley

Great ideas!

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.1 years ago

noted ty

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Shirley S.
Shirley S1 years ago

So far here in AU we are very lucky to have good nursing homes for the elderly.Also good government offers of in home care & help & advice.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey1 years ago

Thanks

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Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard1 years ago

thank you

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