Updated: Mar 26
It’s time for home modifications
Having worked in a hospital, I had witnessed situations where families struggled with decision whether to send their loved one to a nursing home or assisted living. The person in question frequently resisted and insisted on returning home to the familiar environment that offered sense of control. If only home was a safe place..
With safety of your mom (or dad) in mind, let’s talk about home modifications and what can help your mom stay safely at home and give you peace of mind.
Home modifications are not one size fits all and vary from basic changes one can make in a day to more extensive modifications requiring structural changes. Ways to improve one’s home safety largely depend on the person’s needs and challenges. Did mom fall at night? Was it not the first fall? Did she become increasingly forgetful? Has her vision gotten worse lately? Let’s separate the major concerns into several categories
When balance deficits, pain (arthritis), need for cane, walker, or a wheelchair make moving about the house more difficult and less safe, it’s time to clear the path.
Part with those throw rugs or add non-skid backing. Smooth level surface requires less effort to travel and minimizes fall risk from tripping and loss of balance trying to get over the edge with a mobility device.
Take a closer look at the bathroom tile, older tiles tend to have lower skid-resistance, so you may want to replace it with slip resistant rating of R13 or at the very least apply non-slip etching tile product on existing surface. Add grab bars in areas of transition, towel racks are not designed to withstand the amount of pressure people put on them for support. Add seating in the shower/tub, and a handheld shower wand
If you are concerned with safe stair use, secure handrails on both sides are a must. While open riser stairs (missing vertical portion between threads) are growing in popularity, traditional closed risers are best for safety and fall prevention
Vision deficits may present themselves in increasing number of bruises from bumping into doorways and counters, increased spills, decreased safety at night. While the house may have sufficient overhead lighting, getting to the light switch may present a safety concern. With a wide variety of motion sensor lighting, one can create a safe environment and help mom to safely get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. LED lights are available for spot lighting closets, pantries and other areas that are not easy to access. They don’t require electrical wiring and low energy consumption makes batteries last for a long time.
Another easy-to-do home modification for low vision is contrasting colors. Dark countertops with light flooring will help discriminate where the surface ends, Bright colored shelves can help locate essential objects. Marking obstacles with bright colors will draw attention to them and help prevent falls.
Whether your loved one keeps forgetting about their doctor’s appointments, or you need peace of mind about their safety when caregiver didn’t show up on time, technology can offer your virtual presence at home on demand, a wide variety of schedule keeping, reminders and safety. Digital locks allow you to track who entered and left the home and at what time. Smart home solutions can take care of the power supply to the stove, microwave, and iron. Reminders can be announced loud enough and even appear on a tv screen. Smart devices can guide your loved one through a task through step-by-step directions and alert you whether the task was completed. In case of need for multiple caregivers, software such as this free app products offer multi-way communication to ensure carryover of services.
Home safety solutions
While 90% of seniors want to age in place, safety and quality of life are paramount aspects. Changing one’s living situation is a tough call. When you are unsure how to proceed and whether aging in place is the right choice for your family, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from professionals around you. Find occupational therapists specializing in home modifications and home safety assessments in your area as they are trained to look at the person and their environment and provide solutions to ensure the best possible match