Most seniors want to age in place in their homes, well past retirement and into their golden years, and with a bit of help, they can. When circumstances change, specifically in the areas of mobility and ability, seniors may look for ways to make the rooms in their homes more easily accessible for themselves.
Adult children of aging parents also worry that mom or dad may be more susceptible to potential risks at home, especially in the bathroom or shower. A fall while performing daily activities would surely raise concerns about their continued ability to stay safe and independent at home.
Wheelchair users can grow frustrated by common barriers like narrow doorways, stairways, tight hallways and inaccessible bathing or shower facilities, just to name a few. Facing any of these challenges can be enough to make a person want to move.
This Home Safety Guide for Seniors is intended to help the elderly, and their caregivers alike, commence a plan to stay in their own home as long as is possible, and on their own terms. This home safety for seniors guide contains useful information about ways to help them get around in their home an community. Accessible Systems can help seniors plan ahead and make informed decisions about assistive equipment and home modifications that can be the difference between living independently in their home and alternatives that are not nearly as desirable.
Falls: There are Ways to Lower the Risks
The elderly are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes. Too often, seniors seek help after a tragic event happens. Seeking a professional assessment of one’s home environment to learn how to make it safer is highly recommended. This will help seniors and their families understand the variety of assistive and safety devices that may help reduce the risk of falling. Or, here are some common-sense ways for seniors to prevent falls right away:
- Use a cane or walker to steady yourself when getting up. Stand up slowly after eating, lying down or resting. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can make you feel faint.
- Use a cane or walker to feel steadier when you walk. If your doctor prescribes a cane or walker, we can help find one that fits your needs.
- Wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fully support your feet. Wearing only socks or smooth-soled shoes on stairs or waxed floors can be unsafe.
- Hold the handrails when you use the stairs. Use hand grips and install grab bars throughout the house.
- Use a reaching stick, or more commonly known as a reacher, to reach items on top shelves. Consider a step stool with a handle.
- Carefully consider the safety of your bathroom. Grab bars, raised toilet seats, safety bars for your tub, and transfer benches can make your bathroom a significantly safer place.
- Consider purchasing a personal medical alarm to wear around your neck. These electronic devices that can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.
- Taking care of your overall health and well-being can help lower fall risks.
- Ask your doctor about a bone density test, which will tell how strong your bones are. Medications are available that can make your bones stronger and harder to break.
- Regular exercise can help keep you strong, and your joints, tendons and ligaments flexible. Talk with your doctor before beginning any program.
- Have your vision and hearing tested often. Even small changes in sight and hearing can make you less stable and can throw off your depth perception.
- Discuss possible side effects from medication with your doctor and/or pharmacist. Some medicines affect coordination and balance.
Related resource: Take this Free Fall Risk Assessment Test
Making Every Room in a Home Safe and Accessible
Have you thought about the current and future safety and accessibility needs of all those who are living in your home? What about accessibility needs of friends and relatives who visit? Do you have an aging parent who is coming to stay for awhile?
Practicing the concept of universal design, either during initial construction or with home modifications later, incorporates design elements, spaces and even equipment that make each room more user friendly for as many different people as possible.
Modifications like extra-wide doorways and hallways can accommodate a walker, or make getting around easier for a person on crutches or in a wheelchair. Movable cabinets increase the usability of the kitchen wheelchair users, and anyone who has a hard time bending down or reaching up.
Equipment like grab bars and support poles offer assistance when coming to a standing position, while stair lifts, ramps, wheelchairs/scooter lifts and even residential elevators can keep every level of your home accessible to all.
Home Safety Solutions to Home Accessibility Challenges
Here are some solutions to common home mobility and accessibility challenges for seniors by room.
• Barrier-free showers
• Walk-in tubs
• Step-in tub cutouts
• Grab bars & handrails
• Elevated toilet seats
• Bath lifts
• Shower benches
• Swing & support bath basins
• Toilet support frames
• Adjustable beds
• Bed rails
• Floor or ceiling-mounted lifts
• Bedside commodes
• Handholds/poles to help with standing
• Over-bed trapeze
• Pull-out closet shelving
• Easy-access cabinetry
• Accessible counter tops
• Easy-grip utensils, ergonomic dishes
• Accessible appliances
• Pull-out shelving
• Stairway lifts
• Lift chairs
• Canes & walkers
• Home monitoring devices
• Safety poles
• Home automation devices for seniors
Getting Around – inside, outside and in your community
• Portable ramps
• Power wheelchairs
• Rollators & canes
• Vehicle lifts
• Accessible vehicles
• Lightweight transport wheelchairs
• Porch railings
• Foldable canes, walkers, wheelchairs
• Modular ramps
• Door widening
• Curbless or barrier-free showers
• Residential elevators
• Patient and vehicle lifts
• Pull-out shelving
• Inclined platform lifts
• Vertical platform lifts
• Automatic door openers
Modify Your Home Room by Room
Modifying the home can be as simple as picking up throw rugs (tripping hazards) or more complex – widening doorways, installing a “curbless” shower, changing door handles to levers, installing “rocker” light switches, or opening up interior space to make it more accessible and practical for individuals who use mobility equipment. Some of the most common home modifications include:
• Grab bars in bathrooms especially around the toilet and bathing area
• Ramps, both interior and exterior
• Stair lifts – both indoor and outdoor
• Door widening
• Walk-in tubs/curbless or barrier-free showers
• Full bath remodels
• Ceiling lifts
• Porch lifts
• Accessible room additions
• Floor coverings to accommodate wheelchair use
Staying Safe in Your Home
Home automation products are ‘smart’ home devices that can help seniors monitor the security and safety of their homes, engage automated lighting systems, allow the homeowner to see who is at the door, and program the thermostat so it learns family patterns, and knows when someone is home or not. Elders can also check on pets and the security of your home while away, and so much more. These gadget can help seniors stay in their homes –– comfortably and safely. Actual smart devices include security cameras, doorbells, thermostats, smoke detectors, lighting controls and more.
Emergency alert devices and systems can help seniors remain independent at home and when out and about in the community. Most systems offer options for wearing the alert button around the neck or on the wrist, and are automatically triggered when a fall is detected and the user cannot push the button. Such automated fall detection can be a real life saver.
Medicare & Insurance Guide
Many home medical products are covered by Medicare. What Medicare doesn’t cover, secondary insurance often will. Home modifications and accessibility equipment like stair lifts, bathroom safety, ramps, vehicle lifts, and vertical platform lifts usually are not covered by Medicare or insurance, but may be through non-profits, waiver programs, reverse mortgages, special home improvement loans, foundations and churches.
Remember to weigh the cost of alternative care versus the cost of making your home environment more accessible through modification.
• The average annual cost of skilled care at a nursing home is $82,500 for a semi-private room, or $92,500 for a private room.
• Assisted living costs an average of $48,000 annually.
• The average rate for an in-home health aide is $23 per hour.
• Adult day services average about $22,000 if care is provided five days a week.
Download This Free “Stay in Your Home” Resource Guide
This home safety for elderly people resource is packed with home safety checklists and assessments by room type, images of actual accessibility equipment not featured here, rich floor plan illustrations that highlight common areas seniors ultimately face mobility challenges in, along with an easy to read chart of the equipment/items that Medicare and other insurance does or does not cover, and so much more.
We trust you’ll find value in all the information presented and that whenever circumstances change, that Accessible Systems will be top-of-mind when needing a professional evaluation or one’s home.
Related resource: The Medicaid Home Modification Funding Guide