Earlier this year, my 84-year-old mother slipped and fell. Her accidental fall left her with a broken pelvis – and me with the realization that my aging mother could simply no longer care for herself at home. When we made the tough decision for her to move in with my family, I knew that our current home – with its second-floor guest bedroom and narrow stairs – would need to be changed.
According to Caregiver.org, about 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, “informal” care each year for adult family members and friends. While everyone’s situation is different, we all face a shared challenge of adapting our homes for an elderly parent.
If you are preparing to care for an elderly parent in your home, you may need to modify your house to meet her mobility needs and to reduce her risk of falling. Consider the following safety checklist to help adapt your home to senior-specific home safety.
- Install a threshold ramp and chair railings to make it easier to leave and enter the home.
- Repair cracked sidewalks or uneven pavers that pose a tripping hazard.
- Install grab-bars by the toilet and in your bathtub or shower.
- Add a no-slip rubber mat to the bottom of your bathtub or shower to prevent slipping.
- Add a shower chair or bench for enhanced stability and ease of bathing.
- Use a nightlight in the bathroom and hallway to illuminate the path from the bedroom to the bathroom at night.
- Reinforce handrails. An adult should be able to securely wrap his or her hands around the entire handrail with ease.
- Add a second handrail on the opposite wall, if possible.
- Increase lighting on stairs. Use a two-way switch so the light can easily be turned on and off from both upstairs and downstairs.
- Remove rugs from the top and bottom of stairs.
- If possible, convert a downstairs room into a bedroom to reduce stair use.
Living Space Safety
- Remove throw rugs and runners or use double-sided tape and a non-slip backing to securely hold them in place.
- Secure extension cords against the baseboards and out of high-traffic areas.
- Reduce clutter. Remind children to keep toys and books off the floor.
- If your elderly parent will be cooking or preparing meals, place pots and pans at waist level for easy access.
- If your elderly parent should not be cooking due to impairment, consider disconnecting the stove when you’re not be home to prevent him or her from turning it on.
- Place a microwave on the counter (rather than over the stove) to reduce bending and stretching while preparing food.
Caring for an elderly parent at home? Tell us — how did you prepare your house for your parent’s arrival?