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Modifications for Keeping Seniors Safe at Home

Happy Senior Couple From Behind Looking at Front of House.

Stairways, Lifts and Elevators

  • Make sure there are adequate hand rails on both sides of stairway, 1 ¼-inch diameter 
  • Increase visibility of stairs through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, color contrast between treads and risers on stairs and use of lighting 
  • Multi-story homes may provide either a pre-framed shaft (i.e. stacked closets) for a future elevator, or stairway width must be a minimum of 4 feet to allow space for a lift 

Ramps

  • Slope should be no greater than 1 inch rise for each 12 inches in length, with adequate handrails 
  • Provide a 5-foot landing at the entrance 
  • Include 2-inch curbs for safety 

Closets and Shelving

  • Install adjustable closet rods and shelves 
  • Use easy-to-reach lighting in closets 
  • Include easy-open doors that do not obstruct access 
  • Make sure closets are uncluttered, organized and easily accessible, with items off the floor, including shoes
  • Shelves should be no more than 18 inches deep
  • Lower drawers should be deep and upper drawers should be shallow

Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security

  • Make sure there are light switches by each entrance to hallways and rooms 
  • Use light receptacles with at least 2 bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom) 
  • Add more incandescent lights to the home
  • Add nightlights in areas one might walk at nighttime, such as bedroom, hallway and bathroom
  • Light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls should be placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor 
  • Use easy-to-see and read pre-programmed thermostats
  • Clear access space in front of switches and controls 
  • Use rocker or touch light switches 
  • Include an audible and visual strobe light system to indicate when the doorbell, telephone or smoke or CO2 detectors have been activated 
  • Install a high-tech security/intercom system that can be monitored, with the heating, air conditioning and lighting, from any TV in the house 
  • Use a flashing porch light or 911 switch 
  • Make sure the home is wired for security  

Flooring

  • Use smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior 
  • If carpeted, use low (less than ½ inch high pile) density, with a firm pad 
  • Use color/texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels 

When care is needed, Family First Home Companions can help with a qualified caregiver and ongoing oversight to ensure your loved one is being well cared for. We can also provide a free in-home safety assessment and make recommendations for comfortably aging in place. 

Some simple home modifications can make for safer and more comfortable living at home.  

 

Entries and Doorways

  • There should be at least one no-step entry to the house with a cover 
  • Outdoor walkway should be well lit
  • Install a sensor light focusing on the front-door lock 
  • Use non-slip flooring in foyer 
  • Make sure there is a surface outside to place packages on when opening the door
  • There needs to be 32 inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door 
  • Use a levered door hardware versus a knobWindows
  • Make sure there are plenty of windows for natural light, which should be kept clean and with curtains pulled back during daylight hours 
  • Include lowered windows or taller windows with lower sill height
  • Use easy to operate window hardware 

 

Counters and Cabinets

  • Make sure there is wall support and provision for adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets 
  • Install open under-counter seated work areas 
  • Use accented stripes on edge of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace 
  • Include a base cabinet with roll out trays and Lazy Susans 
  • Use pull-down shelving 
  • Use glass-front cabinet doors and/or open shelving for easy access to frequently used items
  • Include loop handles for easy grip and pull 

 

Faucets

  • Use lever or pedal-controlled handles 
  • Install thermostatic or anti-scald controls 

 

Appliances

  • Make sure they utilize easy to read controls 
  • Use a front loading laundry machine on the first floor of the home
  • Use a microwave oven at counter height or in the wall 
  • Use a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer 
  • Install an electric cook top with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and a downdraft feature to pull heat away from the user, as well as a light to indicate when the surface is hot 

Fixtures

  • Use grab bars in the shower and/or tub
  • If a stand-up shower is used, it should be curbless and a minimum of 36 inches wide 
  • If a bathtub is used, obtain a portable transfer bench, install a bath lift or purchase a tub with a door to aid with getting into and out of the tub 
  • Use a fold down seat in the shower 
  • Install adjustable/handheld showerheads, 6-foot hose  
  • Make sure there is a light in the shower stall 
  • The toilet should be 2 ½ inches higher than a standard toilet (17 to 19 inches) or height-adjustable 
  • Design of the toilet paper holder should allow rolls to be changed with one hand 
  • Use slip-resistant flooring in the bathroom, tub and shower 

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