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The Best Home Modifications For Seniors With A Loss Of Mobility

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Statistics indicate that mobility is the most common disability among older Americans, which can make it difficult — and scary — to accomplish everyday tasks. While assisted living facilities, retirement communities, and nursing homes can alleviate some of this stress, seniors who choose to stay in their own residence need to make the necessary modifications to ensure their safety while making them feel more confident in the process.

Prevent Injuries

The first order of business is to create a secure environment to prevent injuries — approximately three million seniors are hospitalized each year due to a fall, according to HomeAdvisor. The website explains, “For seniors to keep their independence, they must have a safe environment to live in. Safe is a relative term that must factor in a person’s individual needs. Understanding your health, medical conditions and any complications that may arise is the first step to staying in your own home." Many of these additions can be done without having to hire a professional, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a trusted friend or loved one assist to ensure everything is installed properly to prevent an accident.

Modifications to consider include:

●     Placing non-slip mats in hazard areas and/or installing slip-resistant flooring — these surfaces prevent slips even when wet and cooperate with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

●     Install handrails and seats in showers and tubs. Though it’s a more costly investment, replacing a standard tub/shower combo with a walk-in shower is the safest and easiest way for seniors to bathe. 

●     Install an elevated toilet or seat — just make sure you get a model that properly fits your existing seat and can be securely locked in to prevent a fall.

●     Remove rugs, clutter, and other tripping hazards such as electrical cords and pet toys. Minimizing the items in each room will make it easier to keep clean, thus decreasing the risk of an accident.

●     Secure any tall and/or wobbly furniture to the wall; remove any pieces with sharp edges or glass surfaces, or add edge and corner guards.

●     Install a wheelchair ramp (it’s possible to make this a DIY effort) and mechanical stair lift/chair. If the bedroom is upstairs, consider relocating it on the main floor if at all possible.

Making Daily Tasks Easier

Once the basic safety modifications have been made, one should consider making additional tweaks to make daily tasks easier to manage. For example, someone in a wheelchair may have difficulty preparing food in the kitchen, so it can be helpful to lower the countertops and cabinets. Installing a sink with an open space underneath can make it easier to access water or take care of dishes. Lowering all appliances will prevent injury while increasing accessibility. For all rooms, replacing traditional hinges on the doors with expandable versions can make it easier to get in and out with a wheelchair or walker. If an electric bed isn’t an option due to cost or size, install a grab handle under the base or on the side of the bed — a freestanding or affixed lifting pole is another option. 

Some home modifications can be costly, so before making any changes, seniors should check to see if they qualify for financial aid. Possible funding can come from federal, state, county, community, and charitable sources. Even if this is not the case, it’s still smart to create a solid action plan that includes which modifications are needed (prioritize if necessary) and the most responsible way to pay for them. There are many routes to consider, so one shouldn’t compromise their safety or quality of life due to the fear of financing.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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