Inexpensive Ways to Make Your Aging Parents’ Home Safe
Your parents will likely want to remain in their home as they age. The problem is, their home likely doesn’t have the features your parents need to live safely and comfortably. In fact, only 10% of homes are aging-ready, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.
Unfortunately, your parents might not recognize or want to admit their home needs modifications. So it will likely fall on you to persuade them to make necessary changes. You might even have to be the one to make those changes—and it’s in your best interest to do so. “Aging-accessible home modifications can reduce the risk of injury and burden on caregivers,” according to the Census Bureau report.
That’s right—making your parents’ home safer can help lighten your load if you have to help care for them. Some essential features, such as a first-floor bedroom and bathroom, could require a costly renovation. However, there are several modifications you can make at little to no cost that will have a big impact, says Dan Lagani, co-founder and CEO of Silver Solutions, which provides safe living solutions, downsizing and relocation services, and home emptying services.
Follow these budget-friendly steps to make your aging parents’ home safer.
Start with conversations
The first step in making your parents’ home safer is letting them know that some changes need to be made, Lagani says. These conversations can be tricky, so you need to approach them carefully.
Lagani recommends focusing on your parents’ ability to remain independent when talking to them. You could offer to help them review their home to make sure it’s set up in a way that would allow them to live there as long as possible. Be respectful, but be willing to acknowledge risks to their safety. Key issues that need to be addressed are clutter, fall hazards, safety features, accessibility and lighting.
[ See: How to Speak So Your Parents Will Listen ]
Your parents likely have accumulated a lot of things over the years. If those things—books, magazines, clothing and even furniture—are making it difficult for them to get around their house, encourage them to get rid of what they don’t need.
Lagani says it can be easiest to start with clothing because your parents might be more willing to part with items they no longer wear. Once they see the benefit of cleaning out their closet, help them go through other cluttered areas in the home.
If they refuse to get rid of anything, “go after easy wins first,” Lagani says. Ask them to commit to no loose items on the floor. Then institute a rule: Any time they buy something new, they remove an existing item from their home.
Remove trip and fall hazards
More than 1 in 4 people age 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Falls can lead to serious injuries and impact your parents’ ability to remain in their home. So you need to ensure that there aren’t tripping hazards in their home that can contribute to falls.
Start by removing throw rugs, which Lagani says are classic trip and fall hazards. Make sure bathmats have an anti-skid surface or anti-slip pads under them.
Also, make sure there aren’t electrical cords, phone cords or mobile device charging cords in walkways. You can find inexpensive cord clips at big-box retailers, office supply stores and on Amazon to secure cords to walls.
Install essential safety features
Your parents might rely on towel racks and other things not designed to support their weight to steady themselves in the bathroom. Installing grab bars in the bathtub and near the toilet is a much better option. Having these inexpensive safety features can go a long way toward preventing falls in the bathroom, Lagani says.
Also, install handrails on both sides of stairways. It’s not ideal for your parents to be going up and down stairs as they age. But if they refuse to move to a one-story home, make sure they can grab onto rails with both hands to steady themselves as they navigate stairs.
[ See: Tech Solutions for Independent Senior Living ]
Your parents shouldn’t have to bend or reach to get the things that they regularly use, Lagani says. Otherwise, they risk injuring themselves. Help them organize cabinets, closets and storage areas so that frequently used items are easily accessible.
Also, make their home more accessible by replacing door knobs with levers. Consider adding raised toilet seats to make it easier to get on and off toilets. Their bed also should be the right height so that their feet can touch the floor when sitting on the edge of it. And if you or your parents can afford it, replace a traditional bathtub with a walk-in tub or shower to make it easier and safer for them to bathe.
Evaluate the lighting inside and outside of your parents’ house. You might need to add lights outdoors to keep walkways well lighted. More importantly, make sure they have adequate lighting throughout their home.
Instal motion sensor lights or simple night lights to make hallways and bathrooms easy to navigate if your parents get up at night. Your parents also might benefit from voice-activated lighting systems. All three of the major voice assistants—Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant—are compatible with smart lighting systems and can respond to your parents’ commands to turn lights on or off in their home.
Let your parents know that making all of these modifications can go a long way toward keeping them safe and comfortable in their home for as long as possible.
[ Keep Reading: How Financial Care Is Part of Aging in Place ]
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