AARP suggests that 90 percent of seniors would prefer to age in place in their own homes, but may be overlooking a vital part of successfully aging in place: home safety modifications.
Perhaps we dismiss the idea that home modifications may be necessary because our mental age doesn’t match our physical age. “We don’t need this, we’re too young,” we think, and “I am not ready yet”. Or perhaps we dislike changes that highlight our weaknesses, instead of our strengths.
Sometimes ignoring change isn’t intentional, but just a simple failure to recognize the need for assistance or a general awareness that “something should be done soon.” Acknowledging that change is necessary is one thing, knowing how to navigate the change process is another.
It’s easy to delay for too long. For many, it takes a nasty fall or accident to trigger the acceptance that change is necessary. Getting expert advice from medical professional, or even a hospital visit, may finally assist in bringing the right resources to manage home safety.
Falls are preventable. The trick? Prevention.
Along with maintaining physical strength to boost balance, a safer home helps you avoid the most common reasons falls occur. To get started, here are a few simple places to begin your modifications. Even better, they’re affordable at less than $50 each.
1. Grab bars in the bathroom.
Installing grab bars around your showers, bathtubs and toilets are one of the most important home safety modifications to do first. Most falls occur in the bathroom. Just be sure to avoid suction devices and use a professional to install them directly on beams behind the drywall. If you lose balance and grab a bar that comes loose from its mounting, it may be extraordinarily dangerous. The grab bars themselves are inexpensive, typically under $50, but costs for installation varies. We recommend the same partner we use for our members, Grab Bars, Etc.
2. Purchase a bathtub transfer bench and anti-skid strips.
Returning to the bathroom, because it’s such a common area for falls, anyone using a bathtub can benefit from an inexpensive bath transfer bench. With a cost ranging from $30-100, it replaces stepping into a tub with the ability to sit and move legs individually, ensuring balance. Available on Amazon or any medical device store, this might even be a cost covered by Medicare or health insurance. Be sure to ask your physician. Combining this with anti-skid strips on the bottom of the tub to prevent feet from sliding in the water and grab bars on the walls give you an ideal mix of modifications.
3. Improve lighting around the home.
Everyone tries to watch where they step and walking around a home in the dark can be disastrous. It’s also unnecessary, due to the fantastic resources available. Available under $10 at any home improvement store and Amazon, motion-detecting LED light bulbs aren’t just for outdoor areas. They can be a fantastic tool to light the way indoors, too. There’s no switch to flip, take minutes to install, and can be paired with a timer and nightlights to keep use of electricity to a minimum. They come in the same size as regular bulbs and can be used in almost any setting. Shaded glass, dark lamp shades and other installations that block the sensor may not work, so it’s not ideal for every setting.
4. Remove all floor rugs.
This next modification is free, although some aren’t happy with the décor change: remove all floor rugs. Bathrooms, kitchens and doorways are all common places for a throw rug, but these are dangerous. Even area rugs can easily trip someone who occasionally shuffles their feet or uses a walker/cane. Removing them is the best option, but taping them securely to the floor is an acceptable alternative.
Ensuring home safety modifications are done BEFORE they are needed is an important way to remain independent as we age. At Sun Health at Home, we provide regular in-home functional and safety assessments for our members, along with a host of other benefits to help you remain safe and comfortable in your home. A dedicated wellness coordinator is your best ally, when it comes to your retirement years! Click here to learn more.
Not a member but interested in this topic? Click here for a fact sheet from the CDC on steps you can take to stay independent through fall prevention.
Sun Health at Home is the first CCaH program in the southwestern United States and the only one available in Arizona.
(Originally published March 7, 2018; last updated Jan. 11, 2019.)