If an older adult wishes to age in place, it is important to ensure the home is as safe and accessible as possible. The three main areas of the home to check for safety risks are pathways, stairs and bathrooms.
Making Pathways Safer
Hallways and exits:
- Keep all hallways and exits clear of furniture or other belongings that may cause an older adult to trip. For example, pet toys are a common tripping hazard.
- Rearrange furniture if possible to make walkways wider. For example, older adults who use wheelchairs typically require a 5-foot-by-5-foot area to turn themselves around.
- Doorways can be made wider by replacing standard door hinges with swing-clear door hinges.
Rugs and mats:
- Sliding rugs and mats are another common tripping hazard. Secure sliding rugs and mats with double-faced carpet tape or rubber matting. Removing them entirely is the safest option.
Floor level changes:
- It is common for homes to have doorway thresholds that are higher than the floor. Usually, these can be easily removed to help prevent tripping.
- If there are small steps between rooms in the older adult’s home, it can be helpful to add small ramps or use a strip of colored tape to mark where floor height changes.
- If the type of flooring changes going from room to room, it can help to add transition strips or overlap reducers between the floor types.
- Installing more lighting can help older adults see their surroundings better. Lamps, night lights or brighter bulbs can be added around common pathways.
Making Steps Safer
- Items should never be stored on stairs or landings inside or outside the home, as these pose a tripping risk.
- Make sure each step is clearly visible. Adding colored tape on step edges can be helpful.
- Indoor and outdoor steps should be kept well-lit, so replace any dim or burnt out bulbs.
- Textured strips can be added to stairs to help prevent slipping.
- Older adults can also wear non-slip shoes rather than socks or slippers in the home to make climbing stairs safer.
- If stairs are carpeted, check to make sure the carpet is securely attached to all steps and replace it if it is worn down.
- If necessary, professionals can help repair broken or uneven steps and install handrails that extend beyond the top and bottom of the stairs. Handrails are most helpful when installed on both sides of the stairs.
- Ramps and stair lifts can also be provided by professionals.
Making Bathrooms Safer
Assistive bathroom devices that may be helpful include:
- Shower chairs or stools
- Bathtub transfer benches
- Grab bars
- Rubber mats
- Faucet turners
- Hand-held sprays or long-handled brushes
- Toilet frames
- Raised toilet seats
In vs. Out of Home Care
There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to bringing care into the home vs. seeking care outside of the home.
Here are some pros for bringing care into the home:
- Home is familiar and comfortable
- Easier to keep belongings and pets
- Community resources may be available
- Cheaper if family can help provide care
Here are some cons for trying to age in place:
- May need to make home modifications
- Older adult may have concerns about being a burden on family members
- Potential stress on family relationships
- Potential isolation or loneliness
- Higher risk of falls or other injuries without supervision
- Family members may sacrifice work hours and lose income
- Will need to continue paying for mortgage and home upkeep
Here are some pros for moving into a facility:
- Potential 24/7 supervision and assistance
- Less stress on family members
- Consistent opportunities for social involvement
- Housekeeping and transportation typically provided
- Security and safety
Here are some cons for moving into a facility:
- Moving can be physically and emotionally stressful
- Must adjust to new people and environment
- Possibly lose some privacy
- May feel less independent
- Care may be very expensive
To take a brief assessment of the older adult's home readiness, click this link.
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