Making home safer for an older adult who has difficulty walking, seeing clearly, or some other disabling condition means making a home safer for everyone who lives in the house. Since falls in older adults accounts for the leading cause of disability and impairment for older adults, often a few simple adjustments will prevent injury. Changes made now can also prepare for the future to accommodate increasing disability.
Simple home changes
- Remove unnecessary furniture.
- Arrange the remaining furniture to allow enough space for someone to walk through easily and wide enough for a walker or wheelchair.
- Don’t rearrange furniture after the person in your care has grown accustomed to its placement without their knowledge and consideration of their preference.
- Adjust furniture so it will not move if leaned on.
- Ensure that a favorite chair has armrests that are long enough to help the person get up and down.
- Remove stacks of books, newspapers and other hazards.
- Move low tables and barriers out of the pathway.
- Cushion sharp corners on furniture, cabinets, and vanities using tape or thin padding.
- Make chair seats 20” high. (Place wood blocks or a wooden platform under large, heavy furniture.)
- Increase lighting; especially at night by using automatic night-lights in hallways, kitchen and other areas the person may need during the night.
- Check smoke alarm batteries at least twice a year.
- Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- Consider the need for monitors and intercoms. If installed, does the person know how to use the equipment?
- Place non-skid tape on the edges of stairs to create contrast that someone can see clearly to prevent falling.
- Set the telephone to ring the maximum number of times to avoid rushing to answer the phone.
- Leave the answering machine on high volume so the person can hear and screen incoming messages.
- Call a carpenter for safety suggestions such as installing railings in places where a person might need extra support or other safety ideas.
- For other safety suggestions, ask the doctor.
- Call the Area Agency on Aging at 2-1-1 for possible assistance with modifications or further advice.
Reference: written by Zanda Hilger, adapting various other resources from professionals and online on behalf of Area Agencies on Aging Family Caregiver Education