Job #1 when moving your aging parent or loved one into your home — or helping them age in place in their own home — is making it safe. Take a look at the home from the perspective of a person who uses a wheelchair or is a fall risk.
You need a plan
1. Call in a pro.
- Start with a home assessment by an occupational therapist, physical therapist, geriatric care manager or other certified aging-in-place specialist to access the home and recommend modifications and remodeling projects that will make it easier and safer.
- Check out the Department of Veterans Affairs tip sheets on modifications for a specific diagnosis.
2. Modify. Adapted homes can be stylish, comfortable and safe for all ages. You may need:
- zero-threshold entryways
- wide doorways and halls
- offset door hinges to make room for a wheelchair, walker or two people walking side by side
- controls and switches that are reachable from a wheelchair or bed
- a waterproof seat in the shower
- a stair-climber
- a raised toilet seat
- a shower chair
- a frameless walk-in shower with a sloped floor instead of a step-over threshold
- put textured no-slip strips in the bathtub and shower to lessen the chance of a fall
3. Make simple fixes. Every year, 1 in 4 adults over age 65 take a fall. To lessen the chances:
- Remove throw rugs.
- Use rubber-backed bathmats.
- Move laundry facilities to the first floor.
- Remove wheels on chairs.
- Put nonskid treads on steps.
- Keep steps clear.
- Apply nonslip wax to floors.
- If wandering is a worry, add monitors and sensor alarms.
- Repair loose carpeting or raised areas of flooring.
- Move small and low furniture.
- Clear electric cords and clutter.
- Add a hall railing.
- Switch out standard doorknobs for lever handles.
- Add a raised toilet and grab bars.
- Remove locks from bedroom and bathroom doors so you can get in quickly, should your loved one fall.
- Put a railing on the hall wall.
- Swap out your recliner for one that raises and lowers — to make getting up easier.
4. Do your homework. Call your area agency on aging, Veterans Affairs office, or faith-based, civic or other community-based organizations for in-home care provider referrals. You should:
- Run background and reference checks.
- Monitor their work.
- Stop by at unexpected times.
5. Stay out of hot water. You may want to:
- Invest in easily installed sink, tub and shower antiscalding devices that recognize when the water is too hot and stop the flow. Cost: about $40.
- Option 2: Adjust the thermostat on your water heater so it stays at or under 120 degrees.
6. Light the way. As we age, we need more light. Install:
- bright lights in hallways, closets, stairwells
- extra lamps — consider models that turn on and off with a touch
- outdoor motion sensor lights and path lights
7. Modify the kitchen. Put frequently used items on an easy-to-reach refrigerator shelf. Also:
- Consider using automatic devices to turn off the stove and oven or installing an induction cooktop — which turns off when a pot is removed from the burner.
- Hang a fire extinguisher within reach.
8. Check alarms.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your loved one’s bedroom, and test existing alarms.
9. Stay connected. If your loved one is home alone:
- Check in with Skype or another video-chat app.
- Mount a motion-activated security camera in the home — with your loved one’s permission.