When caring for loved ones at home, whether in their home or your home, it's vitally important that you make the home as safe as possible. Here are some things to consider.
Use universal design principles to ensure the home is comfortable and safe for people of all ages and abilities. Make any alterations easily adaptable, since needs and abilities change over time. A safe home doesn’t have to be unattractive — modifications can be beautiful and stylish. If you engage a contractor, find one who has proven experience in this arena. You can search for a contractor who has the CAPS designation in the National Association of Home Builders Directory. Also, considers AARP’s HomeFit Guide and HomeFit AR app to walk through the home and determine needed changes.
Consider the following improvements:
- No-step entry. This eases entrance to the home for those who use wheelchairs and walkers and makes it easier to carry medical equipment, groceries and suitcases inside. If this isn’t possible, consider a threshold or full ramp, or a lift.
- First-floor bedroom and bathroom or an elevator. Stairs may become difficult as well as unsafe. If you are unable to create a first-floor bedroom/bathroom, you might consider an in-home elevator.
- Bathroom grab bars and a raised toilet seat. Making the bathroom safe and accessible is a top priority. A shower chair can also be helpful, and, if possible, a curbless shower is best.
- Laundry on same floor as bedroom/bathroom. If the laundry room is in the basement, it might be time to create one upstairs.
- Wide doorways and halls. I had offset door hinges installed, allowing just enough extra room for a walker or wheelchair to get through.
- Reachable outlets, controls, knobs and switches. Light switches, thermostats, faucets, cabinet and doorknobs can be lowered and outlets raised to be easily reached from a seated or standing position.
- Variable countertop heights. In the kitchen and bathroom, the counter height may be more comfortable for some people to stand up or use a stool without bending over and straining their backs, but others may need to sit in a chair or wheelchair.
- Easy-to-use handles and doorknobs. Lever handles are easiest for arthritic hands.
- Increase lighting. Dim areas can cause falls.
Tell us about the ways you've modified the home while (or in preparation for) caregiving!
Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert
Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving