36 low-cost, home safety modifications and fixes
Most older adults enjoy their independence – and wouldn’t want to lose it because of home safety issues.
That’s why you want to be aware of home safety, and more importantly, the modifications and fixes that can make your home even safer.
Falls are the top reason older adults lose some or all of their independence, according to research from the National Council on Aging. What’s more, falls due to hazards in the home cause older adults billions of dollars each year, not to mention the time lost living the life they love.
But there are many ways to eliminate hazards and make home safety modifications or fixes that are budget-friendly.
Pull back the clutter
“Many home modifications are inexpensive. Examples of typically low-cost modifications include replacing cabinet knobs with pull bars, installing grab bars in the bathroom, adding night-lights, increasing bulb wattage, and getting rubber grips for faucets,” says Attorney Kathleen Michon in the NOLO blog. “And some changes are free — such as removing throw rugs that pose a slipping hazard and regulating water temperature to avoid scalding.”
The first key is to get rid of clutter throughout the house. You want more space in each room in your home so you have clear paths to walk without bumping or tripping. Pass along unnecessary furniture, knickknacks, books, boxes and piles to family members or donate them to worthy organizations.
From there, let’s look at inexpensive safety modifications room-by-room. You might be able to make many of these modifications or fixes, but if you don’t feel comfortable, ask a family member to help or contact a trusted contractor.
Bathrooms probably cause the biggest risk for falls and accidents in the home. To increase safety:
- Adjust the water heater to 120°F or a bit lower to avoid any chance of scalding
- Install comfort-height toilets or, at even less expense, toilet seat risers
- Install wall-mounted (not suction-mounted) grab bars in bathtubs, showers and within reach of toilets
- Use rubber-backed rugs or adhere double-sided tape to other rugs
- Add nonskid mats to bathtub and/or shower floors
- When possible, install a hand-held or adjustable showerhead and permanent or removeable seat
- When possible, install easy-to-use lever handles, rather than knobs or turn handles, for sinks, tubs and showers, and
- Unplug electrical appliances when not in use, and never use them near a sink or tub full of water.
You don’t need to do a kitchen overhaul to make it safe. These fixes help:
- Get help to install easy-to-grasp D-shaped pulls and handles, rather than knobs, on cabinets and drawers
- Install pull-out shelving beneath lower counters and Lazy Susans in corners – and keep your most-used items in those spots
- Add extra light – or stronger bulbs – near the sink, stove and work areas
- Install lever, touch- or sensor-style faucets, rather than turn-style knobs, and
- Opt for a stove or cooktop with controls near the front of the device that are easy to see and adjust.
Bedrooms and living rooms
Older adults spend plenty of time in areas meant for relaxation – living rooms and bedrooms. Make sure they’re safe with these modifications:
- Get help to arrange furniture so it’s easy to navigate and there’s plenty of room to walk
- Place the bed in a way you have easy access to the bathroom
- Ensure electrical and phone cords are placed along the wall and out of the way
- Secure large area rugs to the floor with double-sided tape, and avoid placing throw rugs anywhere, and
- Install lights in interior closets and adjust items to lower rods and shelves.
Stairways and hallways
Fall hazards are often abound – and overlooked – in stairways and hallways. Prevent them with these modifications:
- Install handrails on both sides of stairs at the appropriate height (just about waist high)
- Ensure stairway lights can be turned on and off at the bottom and top of the stairs
- Add automatic night-lights to outlets near steps and staircases
- Install exterior and interior treads or adhesive strips
- Regularly check there are no loose or weak treads or stairs or raised nails, or for outside steps, loose bricks or cracked concrete, and
- For carpeted steps, try to install tightly placed, low-profile carpet with thin padding and no pattern.
- Add a chair, bench or table near the entrance door to place packages while unlocking or locking the door
- Install exterior lighting at all entrances, including motion-sensor lights at the exterior spots
- Add timers to lights near entrances so they go on at dusk and turn off at dawn
- Install a secure slide latch or chain inside so you can speak to anyone outside without fully releasing the door, and
- Add lever-style handle instead of doorknobs.
To improve safety throughout the house, try to:
- Install automatic plug-in night lights throughout the house
- Add telephones near bathrooms and the bedroom where falls are most likely to happen
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor and make sure they can be heard throughout the hone
- Install rocker panel light switchers, which are easier to use than toggle light switches
- Keep flashlights handy throughout the home, and
- Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, plus the flashlights, when you change clocks twice a year.
Creating and maintaining a safe home – or The Lifelong Home, as AARP calls it – doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it will give you peace of mind and body.
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