What tips or products can you recommend to help make a home safer and more convenient for those who are aging or have a disability? My husband and I don’t have the money for any big renovations, but we want to do what we can to make our home safe and accessible.
There are many simple ways to modify your home so that it is safer and more livable. Here are several inexpensive or free modifications to consider.
Falls are a leading cause of home injury. So, a good place to begin is to pick up any possible clutter that might cause you to trip such as newspapers, books, shoes, clothes, electrical or phone cords, and the like. If you have throw rugs, remove them or use double-sided tape to secure them to the floor. If you have stairs, consider putting handrails on both sides.
Good lighting is also very important. First, add lamps or light fixtures where needed and install brighter full-spectrum bulbs in existing fixtures to improve visibility. Second, purchase some inexpensive plug-in nightlights for the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Third, consider installing motion sensor lights outside the front and back doors and in the driveway.
Your bathroom may also require slight modifications. It may be a good idea to purchase non-skid bath rugs for the bathroom floors, put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub/shower, and have a carpenter install grab bars inside the tub/shower.
In the kitchen, organize your cabinets so that the things you use most often are easy to reach without using a step stool.
Individuals in your home may have various physical limitations which can make your home more difficult to use. In order to help weak or arthritic hands you might replace round doorknobs with lever handles or purchase inexpensive doorknob lever adapters. The same goes for twist-knob kitchen or bathroom faucets. You can easily replace them with lever faucet handles that you can purchase for a few dollars in most hardware stores or you can have a single-lever handle faucet installed.
In the kitchen, you can make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pull-out shelves or lazy susans. D-shaped pull-handles for the cabinets and drawers are also recommended because they’re more comfortable to grasp than knobs.
In the bathroom, consider installing a hand-held adjustable showerhead and purchasing a shower or bathtub seat. Then you can shower from a safe seated position if need be. For easier toilet access, purchase a toilet seat riser for a few dollars. This can make sitting down and standing up a little easier.
If someone in your home uses a walker or wheelchair, you can modify your home by installing ramps over entrance steps and mini-ramps to go over high entrance thresholds. You can widen the doorways an additional two inches by installing “swing clear” offset door hinges.
For many more tips, visit the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence website at homemods.org. Also, see “The AARP Home Fit Guide” (publication D18959) which offers dozens of modification suggestions to make your home safe and livable. You can access the guide online at http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html or if you’re an AARP member call 888-687-2277 and ask them to send you a free copy in the mail.
If you want personalized help, get an in-home assessment with an occupational therapist (“OT”). The OT will evaluate your home, make modification recommendations, and refer you to products and services to help you make improvements. Medicare will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by a doctor. Ask your physician for a referral.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book. The articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.