Home Modifications for Seniors: Where to Start
Posted by justin
14th Feb 2018

Home Modifications for Seniors: Where to Start

According to the AARP, 80% of today’s seniors prefer to age in place. However, if you have a senior loved one living in your home or a parent who wants to age in place, you must make sure the home is modified to meet a senior’s changing needs. Home modifications and adaptations can offer a friendlier living environment so seniors can live comfortably in the home.

While a home is a haven, as seniors grow older, that haven may become dangerous. Accomplishing normal tasks at home can come with the risk of falls and other accidents, and unfortunately, a fall can be very serious for a senior. The best way to prevent accidents is to start making modifications around the home before a tragedy occurs.

Home modifications should focus on improving and increasing these elements:

  • Security
  • Convenience/comfort
  • Mobility
  • Safety
  • Self-reliance/self-sufficiency

Conducting a Home Assessment

Before you begin making your plan for modifications, it’s important to do a home assessment to see how your senior uses his or her surroundings within the home. A home assessment should take a closer look at which objects and spaces within the home are used.

For example, is the bedroom also used for leisure activities in addition to sleep? Are naps taken in the living room on the sofa? Does your loved one prefer to bath or shower? Is a wheelchair or walker used? Do difficulties arise during kitchen use, personal hygiene routines, or when navigating walkways in the home?

Don’t forget to look outdoors when doing a home assessment too. Clearing shrubs, making pathways wider, adding an outdoor ramp, or increasing outdoor lighting may all be needed to improve security, safety, and accessibility.

It can be helpful to have an occupational therapist or an experienced home modification specialist do the home assessment with you to suggest modifications that will best help your senior. Once the assessment is done, you’ll have a list of changes that need to be addressed, which will be useful as you make modifications or hire a company to take care of the modifications for you.

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Get Started with These Top 5 Home Modifications

Few people have the means to complete all the home modifications they need at one time. The best option is to start with the most important home modifications and then come up with a plan for incremental changes in the future as your budget allows. Here’s a look at some of the most popular and critical home modifications to get you started.

Install a Raised Toilet Seat and Grab Bars in the Bathroom

Quoting the National Institute on Aging, NewsUSA noted that 80% of falls occur in the bathroom, so it’s important to get started by making the bathroom a safer place for aging seniors. The bathroom not only has multiple slippery surfaces, but it involves sitting down and getting up from the toilet, which may be difficult for individuals with limited mobility. The simplest way to fix this problem is to install a raised toilet seat, which can easily be installed with your current toilet. Raised toilets are also an option, although they are more expensive and require professional installation.

Adding grab bars to the bathroom can also help prevent falls. While it’s easy to install simple stick-on or suction cup bars, you should never trust these bars to hold a person’s body weight. Grab bars need to be properly installed into the studs of the wall so they can handle the weight of a person. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, having grab bars installed professionally is your best choice for the safety of your loved one. Other places in your home where you may want to install grab bars include next to the bed and in the hallway.

Bathtub or Shower Modifications

While you’re working on the bathroom, bathtub or shower modifications can help prevent falls in the bathroom. A bathtub can be particularly difficult to navigate for aging seniors. Replacing the bathtub with a walk-in shower or a walk-in tub is an excellent option. However, if you cannot afford to replace the bathtub at the time, you have a few less expensive options to prevent falls. Adding safety bars to the tub and installing safety strips on the bottom of the tub can help.

Another option that’s less expensive than replacing a bathtub is to add a bathtub transfer bench. These benches straddle the side of the tub, allowing seniors to sit down on the bench, moving into the tub by lifting legs one at a time over the wall of the tub. This greatly reduces the risk of falling. Bathtub chairs are another option that may work for bathrooms that don’t have a lot of space.

Widen Doorways Throughout the Home

Many seniors end up relying on a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair or a walker, to move through the home and from the home to the outdoors. In fact, according to HealthDay News, at least 25% of seniors use some type of mobility aid.

Most homes don’t have doorways that are wide enough to accommodate these mobility aids, so widening doorways should be one of the first home modifications you focus on if your loved one uses these aids. The cost of widening doorways can vary greatly, depending on outlet, electrical switch, and insulation placement throughout the home.

Install Ramps

Exterior steps are not only a problem for seniors using mobility aids, they are often challenging for seniors who have balance issues or are unsteady. An exterior ramp can be essential for anyone using a wheelchair, and it will also make it safer for any senior exiting the home.

If your senior loved one is using a wheelchair or walker, indoor threshold ramps may also be necessary, making it easy to transition from one surface to another as they navigate through the home. Indoor threshold ramps are usually easy to install, but you will probably want to work with a licensed contractor for the installation of an outdoor ramp.

Add Levered Doorknobs and Faucets Throughout the Home

According to the CDC, about half of seniors over the age of 65 have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and arthritis often affects the small joints of the hands, making grasping objects difficult. Even in seniors that don’t have arthritis, the hands often get weaker over time. The presence of arthritis and weakening hands can make it challenging to turn on water faucets or open doors.

Changing door handles and faucets to levered handles can make it easier for seniors to open doors and turn on water in the kitchen and bathroom. Instead or needing to twist or turn a doorknob simply press down on the flat surface and the door will open. While replacing all the doorknobs and faucets throughout the home sounds like a big job, with a professional to help, it can be done quickly and offers instant benefits.

At Sage Mobility, we’re happy to offer you a free in-home consultation to help you decide which modifications will work best for you or your loved one. If you can’t afford to make all the modifications at once, we’ll help you figure out which ones are the most important, depending upon your loved one’s abilities. Don’t wait until a fall happens to start thinking about home modifications. Call our family-owned company today at (610) 518-2221 or use the form below and we’ll be happy to set up your free consultation.

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