What Every Senior Should Know About Safely Aging In Place
Nearly 90 percent of seniors in the U.S. want to age in place (stay in their homes), even if they may eventually need daily assistance or in-home health care. While it’s understandable why one would want to maintain their independence in their own surroundings, their home may not be adapted to mobility and health issues, so it’s important that modifications are made to ensure one’s safety and comfort. Of course, the best time to make such changes is before they are actually needed to prevent injury from occurring — some people start as early as their fifties or sixties.
While you can conduct your own home assessment in order to determine your needs, it’s best to hire an occupational therapist (sometimes paid for by Medicare) to do the job for you, as they’re trained to make such judgments, even prematurely. These pros also have extensive knowledge of assistive technologies, which is helpful because there is an abundance of new options and advancements on the market on a regular basis.
Once you figure out which modifications you need, decide which ones you can do yourself, which require the help of a pro, and how you’re going to pay for everything. Here’s a guide to help you navigate this process so that you can stay safe while saving as much money as possible.
There are many simple tweaks you can do on your own that take little time or effort, starting with removing all tripping hazards, such as area rugs and excessive clutter. Other considerations include:
- Swapping out grungy carpets for a low-density, shorter pile variety and installing slip-resistant flooring in the bathroom and kitchen.
- For those struggling with visibility (including those with dementia), task lighting can make it easier to perform everyday activities, such as brushing teeth, reading, and cooking. Painting the walls in a light but glare-free color while keeping the ceiling white can improve the lighting in a room, too.
- Replace regular faucets with modified anti-scald valves that rely on water pressure to regulate the flow of hot water.
- Handrails on both sides of all staircases and grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and in the shower/tub are essential aids for preventing falls.
- Assistive technology such as a video doorbell that’s connected to Wi-Fi provides both safety and convenience, while a personal medical alert system offers peace of mind to seniors and loved ones alike.
Hire A Pro
Before hiring a pro, make sure you obtain references — particularly from clients who also needed similar home modifications. While it is possible to build a wheelchair ramp yourself, it’s a complex and time-consuming project, so you’re better off leaving it in the hands of an expert, especially since safety is a concern. Other big-ticket projects that require assistance are installing a chair stair lift or elevator, replacing a tub with a walk-in shower, and lowering countertops and cabinets for easier use.
Funding The Modifications
Not all modifications come cheaply, but there are grants available to those in need. Though not available everywhere in the U.S., there are some state assistance programs to help fund age-related construction and home enhancements.
If home modifications aren’t enough to make a completely safe environment, consider searching for an accessible property in your area. Make a checklist to find what you’re looking for, and use an online filter to help you narrow down your options. Note that homes in Seattle, Washington, typically sell for $737,000.
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