There are dozens of small adjustments and simple modifications to help make your mom’s home safer for little to no cost. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Since falls are the leading cause of home injury among seniors, a good place to start is by arranging or moving your mom’s furniture to create clear walking pathways throughout her home. Position any electrical and phone cords along the wall so they will not be tripping hazards. If she has throw rugs, remove them or use carpet tacks or double-sided tape to secure them. Don’t forget to pick up items on the floor that could cause her to trip, like papers, shoes or clothes.
In the bathroom, buy some non-skid rugs for the floors and a rubber mat or adhesive nonslip strips for the floor of the tub or shower. Also consider hiring a carpenter to install grab bars in and around the tub/shower and near the toilet for support.
Good lighting is a very important safety consideration. As such, make sure to check the wattage ratings on your mom’s lamps and light fixtures and install the brightest bulbs allowed. Purchase some nightlights for bathrooms and hallways that are used after dark. Also consider adding under-cabinet task lighting in the kitchen and motion sensor lights outside near her driveway and by the home’s front and back doors.
If your mom has hand arthritis or problems gripping, install lever-style door handles or doorknob lever adapters, which are easier to use than traditional doorknobs. If her kitchen and bathroom faucets have twist knobs, consider replacing them with single lever, touch or sensor-style faucets. Also consider replacing knobs on cabinets and drawers with easier to grip D-shaped handles.
To help make your mom’s kitchen easier to use, organize her cabinets so the things she uses most often are within reach and at eye-level so that she does not need to crouch down or use a step-stool. Also, consider installing pull-out shelves beneath the counter and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets for easier access.
For easier and safer bathing, consider purchasing a shower chair and install a hand-held shower so your mom can bathe from a seated position, if necessary.
If your mom uses a walker or wheelchair, you can modify her house by installing ramps on entrance steps and mini-ramps to go over high thresholds. You can also install “swing-away” or “swing-clear” hinges on her doors to add two inches of width for easier access.
To keep your mom safe, set her hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent scalding water. If she has stairs, put handrails on both sides. Also, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of her house and place a lightweight, easy-to-use ABC-rated fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location in the kitchen.
For more tips, obtain a copy of AARP’s “HomeFit Guide,” which is filled with great recommendations. You can access it at AARP.org/homefit or call 888-687-2277 and request a free copy by mail.
Also note that all the previously mentioned products can be purchased either in local retail stores, home improvement stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores or online.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Living” book.