Creating a Safer, More Accessible Home

There are multiple benefits to growing old in the home you love - including familiarity, community, and feelings of safety and security. It also eliminates the stressful transition required when moving into an assisted living or a nursing home facility.

Creating a safer, more accessible home is a foundational tenet of aging-in-place because it dramatically reduces the risk of serious injuries that shift the trajectory of an independent senior’s life.

Simple home modifications keep seniors safer and more independent

Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the leading causes seniors (65+) wind up leaving home – often having to transfer to a rehabilitation or nursing home facility because they can no longer take care of themselves. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

·       Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal accidents in the senior population

·       Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall

·       Seniors’ fears about falling and its consequences, “…limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.”

Simple modifications go a long way towards creating a safe and accessible home. In addition to reducing a loved one’s risk of falling, these modifications make it easier to maneuver around the home and access the most frequently used items without help.

1. Relocate main activities to the ground floor

Ideally, the large majority of a senior’s daily living should take place on a single level, on the ground floor – especially during the hours they are left alone without caregivers, a spouse or family member to assist him/her. If the bottom floor has a bedroom and bathroom, relocate the master bedroom to the downstairs level.

INSTALL RAMPS: If there are a few steps required to enter or leave the home, inside the home, or to access a favorite yard/patio – hire a licensed contractor to build an accessible ramp.

2. Remove area rugs or ensure their edges are secured to the floor

The edges and corners of area rugs are notorious trip hazards – and tripping becomes life threatening for seniors. If you aren’t able to re-carpet the home with a low-profile, mobility aid-friendly product, you can secure area rugs by:

·       Taping the edges securely to the floor and checking the edges each month in case the tape lifts

·       Using two-sided tape products specifically designed for securing area rugs to invisibly anchor corners and edges into place

·       Using trim pieces nailed over the rug edges to secure them in place, but make sure the transition from the flooring up to the surface of the carpet is a maximum of ½” – this would be a ¼” vertical with the second ¼” at a 1:2 slope max so the solution doesn’t become a trip hazard.

3. Enlarge doorways that can’t be accessed via wheelchair/walker

Any doorways used by the senior to enter key living spaces must be wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair (32-inch minimum width is ideal). Even if a senior loved one doesn’t use either/or of these mobility aids, you want the house to be immediately accommodating if one or both are needed down the road.

4. Reorganize the most-used items

Go through all of the closets and cabinets and make sure the items the senior uses most in kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and his/her bedroom are in the most accessible storage areas. This reduces the need for bending or standing on a stepladder.

5. Replace door handles, cabinet/drawer hardware, and faucets

The strength of our grip declines as we age and that makes it difficult to twist or pull round objects such as doorknobs, hardware, and certain faucets. Replace any knob- or round-styled hardware with levers or bars, which are easier to operate.

6. Review the current interior/exterior lighting plan

Decreased vision requires stronger lighting. Go over the home’s interior/exterior lighting plan and see if any updates would be helpful. There should be plenty of overhead and security lighting in place, and motion-sensitive lighting in bathrooms and outside are helpful. Use brighter bulbs to increase visibility.

7. Install handrails/grab bars

There should be handrails installed:

·       Along ramps

·       Beside any stairs

·       Beside the toilet and inside the shower/bath area

Are you interested in learning more about how to create a safer and more accessible home for a senior loved one in your life? Schedule a free, no-obligation with a trusted, homecare agency in your area.