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Stay Safe, Stay Home: Know the Top 5 Safety Pitfalls in a Senior's Home


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  3. Stay Safe, Stay Home: Know the Top 5 Safety Pitfalls in a Senior's Home

aging-in-place-home-safety.jpgIt’s clear from research that older adults have always preferred aging at home. A pre-COVID-19 survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., revealed that 94 percent would stay in their own homes as they grew older.

One of the biggest considerations for aging in place, though, is safety. And with more seniors staying isolated at home in 2020 due to social distancing guidelines, plus hospital beds at or near capacity nationwide, home safety is more important than ever before.  

In that same survey, nearly 80 percent of the North American homeowners between 55 and 75 surveyed said they had given at least a little thought to what they will need or need to do to age in place.

What do the experts say? Home Instead talked with two authorities in remodeling and design:  Dan Bawden, founder of the national Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) program for the National Association of Home Builders, and Danise Levine, an architect and assistant director from the University of Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environment Access (IDeA Center). Here are their top five aging in place home pitfalls:

1. Tubs, Showers and Toilets

The risks: Sunken tubs (tubs below floor level or hot tubs), slippery steps and nothing to hold onto make for an accident waiting to happen.

The fix: Install a curbless walk-in shower and grab bars. Generally, one grab bar should be at the entrance to the shower, one along the back wall and another near the toilet. If you don’t like the look of a traditional grab bar, do an internet search for decorative grab bars. There are many options. In addition, consider installing higher toilets for easier access.

2. Thresholds

The risks: Even a threshold (or step up) into a house of 6 inches could be a challenge for someone with a walker or in a wheelchair. Different types of flooring also could create uneven floor surfaces that create a tripping hazard.

The fix: Add a removable ramp for easier entrances and exits. For homes with vertical entrances of more than 2 feet, consider installing a lift. A weather stripping device, called an automatic door bottom, creates a zero threshold by sealing the bottom of the door with a black weather strip. Repair uneven floors. Solutions could include a cork that is cut to thickness of the floor and pressed into the cracks between the floors. The cork acts as a sealant and is stained to match the floor color.

3. Stairs

The risks: Stairs aren’t always designed for those with balance or mobility issues. Slippery rugs and floor surfaces could increase the risk. Railings often are only on one side of stairs and lighting in entrances may be inadequate.

The fix: Look into the option of adding a stair lift or glide. Additional handrails could help.

4. Floors

The risks: Material used to design both bathroom and kitchen floors could be slippery. Adding throw rugs without rubber backing or that are unattached could create an even greater problem.

The fix: Runners with rubber backing are an inexpensive solution. New products on the market offer floor safety treatment options that can be brushed on and permanently treat a floor, even marble and tile, to make it less slick. Peel and stick traction slips also are available for some floor surfaces.

5. Lighting

The risks: Inadequate lighting could be an issue in several areas of the home including entrances, bathrooms, hallways and bedrooms. Bedrooms, in particular, often are underlit with a single light fixture in the middle of the ceiling and plug-in lamps.

The fix: Upgrade to LED bulbs, which are brighter and have the potential for a longer service life. They’re more expensive, but usually won’t need to be replaced as often.

It is surprising to learn that in 2011, only 3.5 percent of U.S. residences had zero-step entries, accessible bedrooms and bathrooms on the entry floor, and hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

To learn more, find a Certified Aging in Place Specialist.

For more ideas, check out the Home Safety Checklist and other resources at https://www.homeinstead.com/covid-19.

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