Updated July 25, 2022 – For older adults, the home is usually a place of comfort and security. But as we age, our homes can become potentially dangerous. Simple things we take for granted, like climbing stairs or taking a shower, can suddenly become treacherous.
Your home is where your aging parent or senior family members should feel the most comfortable. It’s also where you and your loved ones should be safe. This is important especially as you get older and start experiencing mobility and other physical limitations.
In this article, we’ll give you some handy tips on how to make your home senior-friendly. By following these simple tips, you can help your parents age in place while keeping them safe.
How To Make A Home Safe For Elderly Adults
Independent living is a term that is used to describe the ability of seniors to live on their own, without the need for constant supervision or assistance. There are many ways to create a senior-friendly home so that they can continue to live independently as long as possible in their own home.
With a few small changes, you can help your loved one age in place safely and with dignity. I’ll be repeating some of these tips throughout this article because that’s how important they are!
- Remove any trip hazards from the home. This includes things like area rugs, loose cords, and small furniture that can be easily knocked over. Removing the risk of falls can greatly reduce the likelihood of serious injuries.
- Make sure all stairways have handrails and are well lit. It’s always a good idea to have as much lighting as possible throughout the house, but especially on stairs.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and in the shower or bathtub. This is a great way to start the process of creating a senior friendly home.
- Ensure that all appliances are easy to use and to reach. Some helpful features may include a microwave with pre-programmed buttons like this one.
- Consider non-slip or anti-slip floor tiles. You don’t have to necessarily change the floor. There are products that you can use to make your floor less slippery.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers by the phone.
- Sign up for the Vial of Life Program (it’s free) and place that information in a prominent place for emergency personnel.
- Make sure there is plenty of lighting throughout the home, especially in hallways and stair ways. These lighted light switches can help!
- Keep a flashlight handy in case of a power outage. This is important for everyone, not just older people.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm on every floor.
- Consider getting a medical alert system for your loved one to wear in case of an emergency. Or you can opt for an Alexa or Google Home device.
- Check the home regularly for safety hazards and make any necessary repairs or changes.
10 Safety Hazards In The Home For The Elderly
If you have elderly family members living in your home, it’s important to be aware of the potential safety hazards that can pose a threat to their health and well-being.
Some common safety hazards in the home include trips and falls, electrical hazards, and fires. In my years as an Occupational Therapist I would often find many safety hazards during a home evaluation.
Some of the usual culprits that I found in the homes of elderly people include:
- Clutter: can create multiple fall risks for elderly people. It can also make it difficult for them to get around in their homes, especially if they are using a walker or a wheelchair.
- Poor Lighting: can make it difficult for elderly people to see where they are going. This can lead to them falling or tripping.
- Staircases: can be a major safety hazard for elderly people. If they are not properly lit or if there are objects on the stairs, elderly people can fall and injure themselves.
- Bathrooms: can also be a dangerous place for elderly people. They can slip and fall in the tub or shower. They can also trip and fall on rugs or towels that are left on the floor.
- Kitchens: can be dangerous for elderly people. They can slip and fall on wet floors. They can also trip and fall on rugs or towels that are left on the floor.
- Shoes: should be worn at all times to prevent slips and falls. Walking barefoot or in socks can increase the risk of falling. It’s also important to wear the right type of shoes. Shoes with smooth soles and also ones that are open in the back are more likely to cause falls.
- Fires: are another common hazard in the homes of elderly people. Seniors are more susceptible to fires because they often have difficulty moving around and may be unable to escape quickly if a fire were to start. To prevent fires, it is important to keep flammable materials such as newspapers and trash away from heat sources such as stoves and candles.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: is a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled. Seniors are at a higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning because they are often less able to detect the gas and may have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to its effects. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home and to never use generators or other gas-powered appliances indoors.
- Drowning: is a leading cause of accidental death among seniors, and it can often be prevented by taking simple precautions such as never swimming alone, wearing a life jacket when boating, and avoiding slippery surfaces near pools and bathtubs.
- Poisoning: is another leading cause of accidental death in seniors, and can be prevented by storing medications and other potentially poisonous substances safely out of reach, and by disposing of them properly. Also remember to dispose of food that is past it’s expiration date!
Contact a licensed electrician if you observe problems with outlets or switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling, or buzzing noises, or if you see flickering or dimming lights. Never run electrical cords under rugs or carpets. They could pose a dangerous tripping hazard.thecaregiversvoice.com
What Are the Benefits of Aging in Place?
There are many benefits for the elderly to age in place. The most important one is that it allows you to maintain your independence. You don’t have to worry about moving to a new location or being away from familiar surroundings. Additionally, aging in place can also help you save money.
According to AARP, people who age in place have 30-40% lower healthcare costs than those in assisted living facilities.
Let’s get into how you can make your home safe for your aging parents with limited mobility.
Aging In Place Safe At Home Checklist
When creating a checklist on what needs to be done to make a home safer for seniors, you want to follow the principals of Universal Design which state…
The goal of Universal Design is to maximize usability by individuals with a wide variety of characteristics. Whether we are talking about learning strategies or physical space, Universal Design operates by a set of principles designed to maximize access by everyone.Buffalo.edu
Basically, universal design is about making things accessible to everyone, no matter their age or ability.
Aging In Place Checklist
- Grab bars in the bathroom and throughout the house as needed.
- A ramp or no-step entry.
- Good lighting throughout the house, especially on stairways .
- Contrasting colors (walls and floors should be different colors).
- Lever handles on doors.
- Chair lift if it’s needed.
- Raised electrical outlets.
- Pull out shelves.
- Front mounted controls on cooktops.
- Slip-resistant flooring in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Widened doorways (minimum of 36 inches).
- A first floor bedroom.
- Chair lift or home elevator if living in a multi level home.
- Call buttons for help or Alexa or Google Home devices.
- Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Making your home senior friendly doesn’t have to be difficult. Although it can take some time, if you approach it bit by bit, you can eventually make it as safe as possible for your loved ones.
Home Safety Checklist: 12 Useful Tips
1. Consider Secure Mobility
As our parents age, they may need a little help getting around. If this is the case in your home, you’ll want to make sure that their environment is as safe as possible.
One way to do this is to ensure that the pathways in the home can accommodate everything from a walker to a wheelchair. Also, add grab bars throughout the home where most needed. This will give your parents something to hold onto as they’re walking. They can be extremely helpful if someone does happen to fall.
Consider a wheelchair with a seat belt to keep your senior secured when lifting.
2. Prevent Falls
Falls are one of the leading causes of injury in seniors, so it’s important to do what you can to prevent them. One way to do this is to install handrails throughout your home. These can be placed next to stairways, in the bathroom, and even in hallways.
Another way to prevent falls is to make sure that there are no tripping hazards in your home. Keep things like cords and rugs out of walkways. Make sure that there are no loose floorboards or tiles.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your home is well-lit. This will help your parents see any potential hazards before they happen.
3. Provide Easy Access to Food and Water
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at processing food and water. This can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. It’s important to make sure that your seniors have easy access to both.
One way to do this is to install a kitchen counter with lowered shelves. This will allow them to reach everything they need without having to climb up on a stool or ladder.
You should also make sure that there is always a pitcher of water within arm’s reach. Food in the house should be easy to prepare. This means having frozen meals and canned soups available.
4. Secure Your Bathroom
A bathroom is a place you should bring special attention to. Slippery floors and sharp edges can lead to serious injuries. It’s important to take some precautions.
First, install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. These will give your parents something to hold onto if they start to slip.
You should also invest in a shower seat or bench. This will allow them to rest while they’re showering, avoiding any potential accidents.
Handheld shower heads can also help to make showering easier, cleaning the shower easier and help to make showering while sitting much safer.
Make sure to only use non-skid mats by the shower, bathtub, toilet and sinks.
Finally, make sure that all of the cleaning supplies are stored out of reach. They won’t accidentally spill anything or hurt themselves.
5. Improve Your Bedroom
The bedroom is another important room to consider when making your home senior-friendly.
First, you’ll want to make sure that there’s plenty of space for them to move around. This means removing any clutter from the floor and keeping the furniture to a minimum.
You should also invest in a bed rail or other type of support system. This will help prevent them from falling out of bed and injuring themselves.
Finally, make sure that all of the electrical outlets are covered. This way, they won’t accidentally shock themselves if they touch one.
6. Provide Good Lighting
A dark room can be dangerous for seniors, as they are more likely to fall or bump into things. Motion sensor lights outside can also be helpful, so that seniors don’t have to fumble for a light switch when they’re coming home at night.
You want to make sure to have good lighting throughout the house.
Seasoned citizens need more light, (at age 65 we need twice as much light to see as well as we did at age 20) and are much more sensitive to glare, so lighting must not only be plentiful, but well shielded.lampsusa.com
And finally, make sure that all of the bulbs are easy to reach. So that they can be changed without any difficulty.
For seniors that may have lost some fine motor control, rocker switches may be easier for them to use to turn lights on and off.
7. Make a Safe Room
Another great idea is to make a safe room in your home. This can be used as a place for your parents to go if they ever feel unsafe or if there’s an emergency.
Outfit this room with things like a phone, first-aid supplies, and non-perishable food. You should also make sure that the door locks from the inside so that they can’t be locked in accidentally.
8. Installing a Home Security System
Installing a home security system is another great way to make your home senior-friendly. This will give your parents the peace of mind that they need and it can also help to deter criminals.
There are a variety of different types of home security systems available on the market. So, be sure to do your research to find one that’s right for your parents’ needs.
9. Video Doorbell
Being able to see who is at the door through an app on your smartphone can be very beneficial for older adults who have mobility issues. It’s also beneficial for caregivers and family members because they can check who is at the door from anywhere they are.
10. Don’t Forget About The Doors
Sometimes, the simplest tasks turn into problems for some older adults and door handles can be one of those things.
If your parents are having difficulty grasping or turning door handles, you may want to consider installing lever style handles. These can be much easier for older adults to use.
11. Making the Home Smarter
Making your home smarter is another great way to make it more senior-friendly. There are a variety of different devices and technologies that can help to make life easier for any older family member (and everyone else too).
For example, there are smart thermostats that can be controlled via an app on a smartphone. This can be really helpful for seniors who have difficulty getting around the house.
There are also smart locks that can be installed on doors. This can give seniors the peace of mind that their home is secure.
12. Hire a Home Caregiver
If your parents need assistance with day-to-day tasks, you may want to consider hiring a home caregiver. Home caregivers can help with things like cooking, cleaning, and bathing.
They can also provide transportation to appointments and errands.
Hiring a home caregiver is a great way to make sure that your parents are getting the care and assistance they need.
13. Delivery Services
Home delivery services for seniors offer many advantages, including convenience, accessibility, and ease of use. These services can be particularly helpful for older adults with mobility issues or who are unable to cook for themselves. They can also be useful for those living in areas where there is no easy access to grocery stores.
But there’s much more to delivery services than groceries – check it out here.
14. Move to a Senior Living Community
If your parents are struggling to live independently, you may want to consider speaking to them about moving to a senior living community. My mom-in-law lives in one and she loves being able to join the games and activities in the local club house.
Another very important thing to consider is how your spouse feels about having an elderly parent move in. If they are against it, an older adult may be better off living in a senior community of some type. You certainly don’t want to have to choose between a spouse and elderly parent!
Free Home Modifications For Seniors
Home modification is the process of making changes to a home to suit the needs of the occupants. This can include anything from installing ramps and handrails to widening doorways and adding stair lifts.
If you belong to a local community program or church, you may be able to find some volunteers there that can help you with some home modifications.
Otherwise, there are a number of ways to finance home modifications, including government grants, low-interest loans, and private insurance. Some home modification companies also offer financing options.
There is some great information about this at PayingForSeniorCare.com.
When considering making changes to your home, it is important to consult with an occupational therapist or other healthcare professional to ensure that the modifications will meet your needs and help you to maintain your independence.
Making modifications to your home can be a big investment, but there are many resources available to help offset the cost. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers grants and loans for seniors making home modifications, and many states offer programs as well.
You may also be able to find assistance from nonprofit organizations or your local government.
If you’re considering making modifications to your home, be sure to talk to an occupational therapist first. They can assess your needs and help you determine which modifications would be most beneficial.
They can also provide guidance on how to make your home as safe and accessible as possible.
Making your home senior-friendly is essential to provide the elderly with a safe aging place. You can make sure that your parents are safe and comfortable in their own home.
Home safety is important for everyone, especially for senior citizens with limited mobility. With a few small changes, you can give your parents the peace of mind they need to age gracefully in their own home.
If you want some help with this process, consider looking for occupational therapists or senior home safety specialists. These professionals are trained on the topic of creating safe environments for the senior population.