An AARP survey found that 77% of the older adults that participated in the survey reported that they would prefer to age in place and live out the rest of their lives in their own home. That makes sense.
Many of us would prefer to remain in our homes as we age. After all, it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, we’ve built a social network nearby and for many of us, our homes are filled with memories that we still want to keep and cherish every day.
However, it’s essential to consult with health professionals and medical professionals to ensure that aging in place is the right decision for your elderly loved ones. As much as they may want to do that. There are pros and cons to aging in place and they must be considered.
I would encourage a family meeting to discuss this issue and other care options before putting money into a home to make it safer for the older adults. It might be helpful to speak to a financial advisor at this time.
What Do Seniors Need to Stay in Their Homes?
When considering in-home care and modifications to the house, safety concerns should be paramount. Often, elderly parents have health issues, mental health issues, mobility problems or are at risk of slips and falls due to weakened balance.
This is why it’s crucial for family members and health care providers to assess the home for potential hazards and address them as needed.
This is why it’s important for family members to assess the home for potential hazards and address them as needed.
From installing grab bars in bathrooms and staircases, to removing carpets that can cause trips, to installing motion-sensor lights that turn on when someone enters a room.
All these modifications will help improve the safety of the home and make it easier for elderly parents to move around with greater assurance.
So, what can family members and professional caregivers do to help their elderly parents maintain their quality of life and continue to stay in their homes?
- First, modify the parent’s home so that it’s safe and accommodates any disabilities they may currently have or that they may be anticipated to have.
- Second, use technology to make tasks easier and safer.
- Third, enlist the help of others as needed.
I admit, it’s simple enough to say to do these 3 things but the truth of the matter is – there’s a lot involved in making these happen. So, let me give you the information you need to help you get these done.
If you’re the primary caregiver and finding it difficult to take on these tasks or simply need help, then I would recommend that you consider contacting geriatric care managers or senior care specialists.
They provide a large number of services that may be very useful for you (and your senior parents) so give them a call. Most are social workers with an expertise in elder care.
Home Modifications to Help Aging Parents Stay in Their Home
Family caregivers and professional caregivers should know that there are 2 main issues that you want to address when it comes to choosing what home modifications to make to help your aging parent stay at home:
- Modifications to help prevent falls
- Modifications to make the home safer
So, let’s get to the details of the types of home modifications I recommend.
Home Modifications to Prevent Falls
When it comes to preventing falls or at least reducing the chances of falling, the list of changes that should be made in the home include:
Decluttering All Living Spaces
The very first step to making a home safer for seniors is to declutter the living spaces. I know that it’s not an easy task to declutter your living space. It’s especially difficult for older adults. But I can’t stress to you enough the importance of decluttering.
Just 2 weeks ago a dear friend of mine fell and broke her foot and tore a tendon in her leg because she had several pairs of shoes on her staircase. She stepped on one of those shoes as she was coming down the stairs and slipped.
She’s now in a boot for 6 weeks and will have to undergo several months of rehabilitation.
For adult children of aging parents, convincing them to get rid of their stuff is no easy task.
Professional organizer Vickie Dellaquila has years of experience with this, so much so that she wrote a book on the topic. Check it out – Don’t Toss My Memories In The Trash.
My tips on decluttering include:
- Begin by taking one section of one room (a corner, a drawer, etc.). When my husband passed away I found this to be the easiest way to manage clearing out the house so that I could move to a smaller, more manageable and more affordable home.
- Decide on what you will do with the excess items (donate, give it away, throw it away, etc.) and follow through. To this day I still put items that I’m going to donate immediately in my car. When the back seat is full, then I know it’s time to take those things to the thrift store.
- For sentimental collections pare it down to one item. My mother collected Lladro and Lenox and had a large collection. After she passed away, each of us took one item from each of those collections and gave the rest away to family and friends. It’s enough to remember her by without cluttering up our own spaces.
- Having someone who can keep you grounded and focused throughout the process can help tremendously. Friends and family can help you sort through your items and help you to avoid the emotional traps that often happen when you’re trying to clear out your living spaces. Don’t be shy to ask for help.
Read more in our article Decluttering Tips For Seniors. Of course, joining support groups of caregivers who are caring for their senior parents would be helpful as well.
Making Floors as Anti-Slip or Slip Resistant as Possible
These days, there are multiple products that you can use to help you make your floors and stairs slip resistant which would help you to prevent falls in your home.
You don’t necessarily have to put in new floors – there are products that can be applied onto ceramic tile, terrazo, porcelain, wood, vinyl and other types of floors that can help to make them slip resistant.
Of course, we always recommend to remove anything on the floor that may cause you to trip or slip such as rugs, doorway thresholds that are not flushed to the floor (or at least very thin), electrical cords that are not stapled to the molding or tucked under furniture, etc.
Safe Slippers for Seniors
Most seniors and caregivers don’t seem to consider the importance that the shoes they wear can help them to prevent slipping and falling. Well, they certainly can.
The best recommendations I can give you when it comes to the type of slippers / shoes to wear for safety are ones that have the following:
- Rubber non-slip soles
- Secure back heel (decreases the chances of the shoe slipping off the foot)
- Easy to slip on and slip off
- Ankle support if needed for the senior wearing the slippers
- Fits properly (not too big, not too small)
- Comfortable to wear
- Accommodates issues such as high arch, plantar fasciitis, morton’s neuroma, arthritis, etc.
Check out my article on Slippers For Elderly To Prevent Falls for more information and product recommendations.
The Best Type of Furniture for Seniors
Most older adults don’t consider making changes to their furniture as they age in place. But truthfully, there are instances where it’s absolutely necessary.
A dear friend of mine had a kitchen table that had 4 chairs, all on wheels. When her 89-year-old father-in-law visited one day he pulled out one of those chairs to sit down for lunch and somehow – the chair pulled away (easy enough when it’s on wheels) and down he went onto the hard tile floor.
He broke his hip, had surgery and spent the last 6 months of his life in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation.
It’s simply not worth it – don’t you agree?
Senior Friendly Furniture to Help Your Parents Stay at Home
- Furniture with wheels should be removed / replaced with more sturdy furniture. BUT – avoid furniture that is heavy.
- Rolling kitchen islands should be removed / replaced with one that has no wheels.
- Kitchen, dining and coffee tables with squared corners should be replaced with ones that have rounded corners. An inexpensive option is to add Corner Guards like these to your existing furniture.
- Glass top tables are not safe and I would recommend to remove / replace these.
- Assistive furniture (if needed) such as lift chairs, stair lifts, bariatric kitchen stools, etc. can make life safer and easier for aging adults.
- Check out the variety of kitchen chairs that we mention in our article. They can be safer than the standard chairs most of us have in our kitchens.
- Beds should be an appropriate height for your senior parent to get in and out of safely. Not too low, not too high. You may want to consider adjustable beds or bed frames like these. They can make getting in and out of bed easier.
- Deep sofas are very nice to cuddle in but can be difficult to get in and out of for many older adults. Recliners tend to be easier. But an inexpensive thing you can do is to look at any of the variety of chair aids that are available on Amazon. There are many different varieties and one of them just may fit your needs.
- Securing furniture is important also. That means securing free standing bookcases to the wall, securing shelves to their brackets or the wall, etc. You can take a look at these furniture anchors which can be used for furniture, televisions and more.
- Although I mention in this article (and others) that lighting is extremely important (and I mean that) – it’s also important that whatever lighting you do use not create clutter or a hazardous condition for the homeowner. So, don’t put oversized lamps on end tables, don’t use floor lamps that are not sturdy or anchored and for heavens sake, don’t place a lamp where you have to extend the electrical cord over a walking path.
- Arrangement of furniture is also an important aspect. If the furniture is too large, it may make the living environment unsafe and difficult to get around, especially if your senior parent is using a walker or cane or wheelchair.
Don’t ignore the importance of the right type of furniture and the right placement of furniture to improve the overall safety in the home for your elderly loved one.
Using Appropriate Assistive Devices
The use of appropriate devices such as grab bars, stair lifts, shower chairs, etc., is often the first thing people think of when considering senior care modifications.
But, unfortunately, many seniors and caregivers don’t install assistive devices until AFTER a fall or some other type of injury has occurred. I would like to encourage you to be pro-active and install them beforehand.
They can help to make performing activities of daily living much easier and safer.
Grab bars are often the most used type of assistive devices and the bathroom is where most people install them. Read our article on Where To Put Grab Bars In A Bathroom for more information on that.
But please know that these days there are a variety of designer grab bars like this rubbed bronze one that can be placed throughout the home.
Transfer benches and shower chairs are another one of those most commonly thought of assistive devices that most people think of when modifying a home for aging in place. So, yes, absolutely consider them. They are a very big help for seniors with physical limitation. There are a large variety to choose from these days.
Besides these two I listed above, here is a list of some other assistive products that I recommend:
- Toilet seats for seniors
- Behind the door shelf unit
- Non slip rugs and mats
- Walk in tubs
- Hand held shower heads
- Senior friendly faucet handles
- Portable Showers
- Plug in lights
- Battery powered lights
- Anti slip flooring products
- Lift chairs
- Tools to help you stand up
- Adjustable height beds
- Bed safety products
- Alexa Devices
- Google Home Devices
Add More and More Lighting!
One of the most underused home modifications for seniors is lighting. Unless there is a medical condition where someone has difficulty seeing when the lights are turned on, there can truly never be enough lights in someone’s one – especially seniors.
You can use plug in lights or battery powered lights. I like to use a combination of both because there can never be too many lights! Place them everywhere, but especially in those areas that are used at night time.
For example, the path from the bed to the bathroom, the pathway to and from the kitchen, etc.
For those seniors who say that too much light hurts their eyes, consider using “warm light” bulbs like these LED ones. Just remember that they may not be as bright as other types of light bulbs so you may have to incorporate additional lighting.
Re-arranging the Kitchen
I wrote an article about Kitchen Safety For Seniors and it’s filled with information on how to make the kitchen safer for older people. In that article I talked about 3 general tips to follow when re-arranging the kitchen to make it safer.
Know that the physical condition of your senior loved one will dictate where items should be placed. Some tips I can give you are:
- It’s a good idea to avoid putting EVERYTHING out on the countertop or wherever you decide is a good spot. Keep only the most used items out.
- Sometimes, removing the doors to some kitchen cabinets can make it much easier to reach for items – especially if the person is in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.
- Replacing counter top gadgets and appliances (coffee maker, can opener, toaster oven (if you use a small one), jar opener, etc. are all a great way to clean up the counter tops, free up space and make the kitchen ultra efficient. (Use as many built in products or under mount products as possible).
The home modifications mentioned above should go along way in helping you to make the home safer for your elderly parent(s) but there are a few additional factors to consider in making the home as safe as possible.
These days there are some amazing products to help keep you (and your loving parent) as safe as possible at home.
- Fire extinguishers or fire blankets
- Fire suppressor products (for electric stoves)
- Automatic shutoff devices for stoves and ovens
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Smoke alarms
- Fire escape ladders
- Emergency evacuation chairs
For more information about these products check out our article on Home Fire Safety Tips For Seniors (Prevention & Escape Plans)
Use of Technology
These days, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of technology in our homes but many seniors do not take advantage of them for a variety of reasons.
- inability to use them
- it’s a change in how they do things
There are several ways that technology can help older adults to stay at home.
- You can make hands free phone calls using Alexa or Google Home.
- Alexa has a Call My Buddy feature which allows you to contact your close friends with just one vocal command.
- A robot vacuum can help with daily activities of vacuuming.
- Medical alert devices come in many different formats and they are the best thing to have in case of an emergency
- There are multiple Alexa devices that can make it easier for the homeowner to control their lights, appliances, television set, garage door and much more.
I’ve written several detailed articles on this topic and I would encourage you to read them to help you understand how truly amazing these type of products can be. They will not only make life safer and easier for your senior loved one but for you too!
- Technology To Help Seniors Live Independently
- Best Medication Reminders And Smart Pill Dispensers
- Is Google Home Good For The Elderly
- How Can Alexa Help Seniors?
- Does Apple Make A Phone For Seniors
Planning for the Future
A long-term care plan is extremely important for everyone, no matter what age you are (in my opinion). But it’s especially important for older adults.
A friend of mine is building a new home and she is including a small cottage on the property.
For now, she will be using that cottage as an office but in the future, when and if she and/or her husband require a home health aide for their care needs, they intend to house that aide in that cottage.
The idea is to help keep them out of an assisted living facility, if it’s at all possible.
Of course, if either one of them develops Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and requires 24 hour medical care, they may have no option but to move into a long-term care facility.
Now, not all of us have the means to build a cottage in our backyard but the idea is to plan for possible future events as you grow older.
The best way to do this is…
- to consider what (if any) chronic illnesses and/or physical impairments your senior parent has and how that may affect how much care they will need in the years to come.
- modify the home with assistive devices as we have mentioned above.
- look into home care services in your area so you know what is available for you and the cost.
- primary caregivers should look into what kind of respite care they can have access to.
- look into the possibility of hiring professional caregivers if they are needed.
- speaking with a geriatric care manager can help you through this process.
Preparing will go a long way in giving your family some peace of mind knowing that everyone is as prepared as they can be for the aging process. More information will help you and your family to make better decisions.
I hope the information in this article will help you to help your elderly parent stay at home as safely as possible for as long as possible.