A person’s home is the most important place in one’s life. You want to stay at home. You want to die at home, i.e., “Home is where the heart is.” By aging in place, you can maintain a greater degree of control over your routine, activities and personal independence. You are able to live your life as you see fit, and you enjoy a sense of dignity unavailable to many other seniors that you know.
Although some seniors are fortunate enough to live with hardly any impairments, most seniors will eventually develop some chronic problems with age: physical, mental or both. Age is a strong risk factor for many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, COPD, heart failure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and, of course, dementia.
Of course, you’re fine. But it’s your adult children who are getting worried about your safety as you age. Your adult children may be insisting that you move closer to them, but they live out of town (or worse — out of state). Or, your adult children may be insisting that you move in with them, but you don’t want to be a burden. You want your independence!!!
On the one hand, your adult children could have a good reason. The number of visits to California emergency rooms by people over 65 who have suffered some type of fall has been well-documented.
According to Age Safe America, 90 percent of older Americans say they want to age-in-place.
Yet, 85 percent have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging. Homes can have some hazards or lack basic accessibility features. And if you’re not taking a pro-active approach to home safety, those hazards can really increase the risk of injury, thereby reducing the independence of the older adult.
So, on the other hand, you can increase the odds to age in place safely by making simple home modifications to minimize the risk of accidents. Caregivers can work with older adults to identify and eliminate potential risks. These improvements can range from a quick fix to a small renovation, but investing the time to make these updates can help everyone feel more confident in living at home longer.
To help this process, AARP has provided the following Your Home Checklist for Aging in Place:
- Install a walk-in shower to avoid falling.
- Place a shower chair or bench in the shower for bathing.
- Swap out a showerhead for a handheld nozzle to enable sitting while rinsing off.
- Install grab bars on the shower wall and near the toilet.
- Replace glass shower enclosures with nonshattering material.
- Apply slip-resistant strips/shapes to the floor of the shower, as these are more effective than mats.
- Swap out your toilet for a taller version or give it a boost with a toilet riser.
- Opt for lever-style faucets if arthritis or joint pain becomes an issue.
90 percent of older Americans say they want to age-in-place. Yet, 85 percent have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging
- If stairs are hard to navigate, move a bedroom downstairs by turning a room like an office into a bedroom.
- Make sure the bed is easy to get in and out of. Purchase bed risers, if needed.
- Invest in an adjustable bed for extra comfort.
- Purchase a stove with safety features that alert you when a burner is on.
- Adjust the location of major appliances so they are easier to reach.
- Get a refrigerator with handles accessible from a wheelchair or walker.
- Add slide-out drawers or trays to existing cabinets for better access.
- Declutter and get rid of extra furniture to make rooms easier to navigate.
- Opt for chairs with armrests to make it easier to stand and sit.
- If needed, purchase a lift chair — similar to a recliner — that you can electronically control for safe sitting and standing.
- Keep electric cords out of pathways — but don’t put them under rugs.
- Install easy-access light switches at room entrances.
- Have ample indoor and outdoor lighting to create safe navigation in all areas, including basements, attics and closets.
- Use night-lights, especially in bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Consider voice-activated smart lighting.
- Have nonshag carpeting installed over concrete, ceramic and marble floors to lessen falling injuries.
- Make sure carpet pile is short enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker.
- Avoid use of scatter rugs that can be a tripping hazard.
- Secure area rugs with double-faced tape or slip-resistant backing.
- Swap doorknobs for lever handles, which are easier to use with stiff hands or limited mobility.
- Widen doors to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. Have a contractor switch door hinges for swing-clear hinges, designed to provide more space.
- Install a sturdy railing and make sure lighting is adequate.
- Carpet stairs for better grip.
- Highlight the outline of stairs with colored tape to create contrast.
- Install an electric stair lift if needed to help you safely get up and down the stairs.
In conclusion, many seniors need to modify their homes to make them safer and more livable. However, aging in place also comes with a price tag. But, despite these costs, aging in place is typically less expensive than living in an assisted living or nursing facility. If you don’t want to deplete your savings, try paying for the improvements with the equity in your home.
Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.