Home Safety Modifications for an Aging Parent
As one’s parents reach that age of needing help from their children rather than the other way around, adult children and other relatives may have to accommodate their homes to adjust to the physical constraints of their elderly loved ones.
Home modifications can range from simple, inexpensive adjustments to complex and costly home improvements. The type of home renovation you do depends on a lot of factors but affordability and the main needs of the aging individual will dictate what you’re able to do.
Low-Cost Safety Modifications
- Add textured, non-slip strips in the bathtub and/or shower
- Apply non-slip wax to hard floors
- Apply non-slip strips to steps
- Use only rubber-backed bathroom mats
- Place a waterproof chair/seat in the bathroom
- Remove throw rugs
- Take off wheels on chairs
- Install lever handles vs. doorknobs
- Utilize raised toilet seats
Higher Cost Safety Modifications
- Install walk-in bath/shower
- Remove thresholds in entryways
- Install light switches within reach
- Create wider doorways/entryways
Common safety hazards and challenges
There are local agencies in your area that are trained to conduct in-home safety assessments to determine what home modifications are more important given your particular situation.
One common safety concern is a household pet. Oftentimes dogs and cats can be in the vicinity of an elderly person and cause them to trip and potentially fall. It is advisable to keep pets away when an aging parent is moving about if possible.
Another hazard is alternating floor surfaces such as from tile to carpet. A mobility impaired individual may not notice these changes and not acclimate their physical position to move appropriately. To help mitigate this concern, consider laying down bright-colored tape at the point where the floor changes surfaces. A more expensive but effective modification would be to have as your floors remodeled to be all the same surface.
Throw rugs and electrical cords are common obstructions that can either get caught in walkers or pose as a fall risk.
Low or dim lighting can be a common issue that makes it harder to safety maneuver in a room so installing sensor lighting can be a major improvement.
Help for Updating your Home
There are many resources available to help people undergo the best modifications for their home and situation. UC Davis in California created an interactive online resource to display room-by-room safety hazards and their associated recommendations for modification.
When deciding to make larger remodeling decisions, consider connecting with a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) who is trained in this specific line of work. Their knowledge will ensure your modifications are focused on the highest level of safety for your loved one.
Average home-modifying costs are between $400-$2000 depending on the update, but some more substantial renovation projects typically include multiple updates and can cost upwards of $80,000-$100,000 if major building projects and/or add-ons to the home need to be done.
Available Financial Assistance
State and local programs are available to provide some financial support for smaller retrofitting home projects such as installing grab bars. Sometimes doctors will request changes to the home as well based on medical determinations.
Original Medicare plans do not typically cover home updates, but newer Medicare Advantage plans do. As of 2020, some of these plans provide coverage for built-in ramps and door and hallway widening services for better wheelchair access.
One option to pay for home renovations is to take out a low-interest loan. A federal program called Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants program helps provide financial support for low income families who live in rural homes with the target individual who needs changes being 62 or older.
In addition to federal aid, state and local governments may offer grants and loans to help make home adjustments instead of having to be transferred to a nursing home facility. Low-income families can obtain aid in this matter from organizations such as Habitat for Humanity’s Home Preservation program which usually covers exterior updates but also some accessibility modifications. Some social services agencies can also lend equipment such as ramps and wheelchairs if necessary.