For many of our clients, their most pressing concern is their ability to remain in their home for as long as possible.

In some cases, this proves impossible because of health issues beyond the client’s control. For example, a severe stroke that causes paralysis may need constant attention that just cannot be provided in a home environment.

However, many of our clients end up unable to continue to live at home because of preventable conditions. For example, a person’s health requires they be in a wheelchair, but their household bathroom is too small and therefore inaccessible. 

If a person desires to stay in their home for as long as possible, it is vitally important to make the home into a safe place. This article offers suggestions and ideas that can be used now to make sure your home will be safe in the future.

General Hazards Around the Home

  1. Remove all rugs, clutter, low furniture such as coffee tables, ottomans, and electrical cords that run across walkways.
  2. Increase the lighting in the home with stronger light bulbs and night lights.
  3. Have lights controlled with remote controls or added switches for convenience.
  4. Remove plush carpeting and slick flooring such as tile and replace with commercial-grade low-pile carpet or non-slip vinyl.
  5. Reduce the water temperature of the hot water heater to 120 or below.
  6. Replace circular doorknobs with lever-action handles.
  7. Place telephones in each room and close to the ground.
  8. Place emergency numbers next to each phone.

Bathrooms

  1. Install secure grab bars in the bathtub or shower and near the toilet.
  2. Replace faucets with single lever controls that are easy to operate.
  3. Place non-slip mats on any slick standing surface.
  4. Consider replacing existing bathtubs with walk-in tubs or showers with built-in seats.

Kitchens

  1. Move all items from higher shelves to lower shelves and discard stepping stools.
  2. Consider replacing gas appliances with electric appliances.
  3. Replace faucets with single lever controls that are easy to operate.
  4. Ensure the refrigerator shelves are accessible and remove outdated foods.
  5. Move foods to the middle so they are not too low nor too high.
  6. Replace difficult to use appliances with easier to use alternatives, for example, electric can openers.

Stairs

  1. If you live in a home with multiple stories, consider moving before your age makes these areas of the home inaccessible.
  2. Make sure stairways have adequate light.
  3. Install or reinforce handrails as necessary.
  4. Do not have a door that swings out over a staircase. Reinstall any such doors so that they open inward.
  5. Ensure steps have a non-slip surface.
  6. If you are a caregiver for someone who may wander, consider making stairs inaccessible with locks or gates.

Living Areas

  1. Raise the height of chairs and couches to make them easier to get in and out of.
  2. Use firmer cushions so that you do not sink into the furniture.
  3. Consider lift chairs if standing is difficult.
  4. Remove the wheels from any chair or discard the chair.

Bedrooms

  1. Your bedroom should be on the first floor of your home.
  2. Consider moving to a first floor room or remodeling to convert a first floor space into a bedroom.
  3. Have a flashlight or lamp easily reachable from the bed.
  4. Make sure nightstands are large enough for all bedside objects (telephone, glasses, etc.)
  5. Place a sturdy chair with arm rests near where you dress.
  6. Install night lights to provide a clear path from the bed to the bathroom at night.

Garage and Outdoors

  1. Avoid any steps or other obstacles at the doorways. If necessary, consider installing ramps.
  2. There should be adequate outdoor lighting to provide clear paths.
  3. Trim and hedges or trees so that they do not block windows.
  4. Install easy to operate electric garage door openers.
  5. Have salt or sand available for icy conditions and a friend or neighbor willing to sprinkle it on sidewalks and driveways.
  6. Consider covering smooth concrete garage floors with non-slip coating and clean oil or other spills immediately.
  7. If yard maintenance becomes difficult, hire someone.
  8. Repair any cracks in the sidewalks or driveways that could cause a fall.

It is not possible to prevent all accidents. However, planning ahead can prevent many of the most common accidents, which in turn means safely staying in your home longer.

Although the initial cost of some of the suggestions in this article may be significant, they pale in comparison to the cost of an extended stay in a skilled nursing center.

The more you can do now to protect yourself, the better off you will be in the future.


The original contents of this article can be found in the annual magazine Aging Insight Longview 2015-2016 Vol.1.

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