Aging in Place is a phrase used quite frequently in the aging industry. It is the idea that an older adult can live in his or her own home throughout the end of life. When this is possible, it is wonderful. I can’t recall ever having a conversation with an older adult who said, “I can’t wait to move into a nursing home.” If the time ever comes where physical and/or cognitive conditions decline, how would one adapt the physical environment to accommodate for that decline? Below are some tips on how to safely age in place.
One of the most important factors in being able to stay at home is to reduce the possibility of falls. Falls can be the result of balance difficulty, vision changes, dizziness from a chronic condition, etc. Falls can lead to serious injuries which would make it extremely difficult to remain at home independently. It is important to keep the walking environment in the house free of potential hazards. This means the furniture, electrical cords; oxygen tubing, etc., should be out of walking paths. Any loose carpet or areas of the carpet that are raised should be repaired to keep a shoe, cane or walker from catching it. Throw rugs should be avoided. Stairwells should have sturdy handrails, or a chair lift can be installed. Keep the walking areas and bathroom well lit at night using nightlights. Nightlights with sensors work well. Adaptive equipment, such as walkers and canes, should have rubber tips on the bottom.
One of the most common areas for injuries is in the bathroom. Non-skid strips should be installed inside the tub or non-skid mats can be used inside and outside the tub, as well as near the sink and commode areas. Grab bars can be installed inside the shower and near the commode and shower benches are recommended. Shower benches often work better than shower chairs as the individual can sit on the bench and then lift their legs and place them in the shower. It would be a good idea to place items the individual uses routinely, at a height level that wouldn’t cause the individual to have to use a step stool to reach. If a step stool is necessary, make sure that the legs lock and that it is equipped with handrails. Use reaching devices as well.
The recommendations discussed here are only a small number of things that can be done inexpensively to age in place safely. There are a vast number of internet and paper resources to guide adapting your home. Welcome home!