Home modifications can make your home a safe place


By Cindy Tulimier and Karen DeRosas

Do you want to stay at home for the rest of your life? Nobody looks forward to moving into a long-term care facility. The idea is to plan now for the future. If you are planning on doing renovations to update your home, consider some easy changes in design that will allow for better accessibility. Widen your doorways and remove doorway thresholds. Not only does it allow for a wheelchair or walker to easily navigate through the doorway, it opens the room to make it feel bigger.

Removing the threshold reduces the possibility of falls and tripping. Also, grade the entrances of homes by using the ground to reduce or eliminate the need for stairs to enter the home. This will reduce the need for ramps or chair lifts that can be costly later.

General and easy safety recommendations always include removing clutter or items from pathways and stairs. Removing all scatter rugs will improve overall safety throughout your home, particularly if you require a walker or cane for balance.

A non-slip strip inside and out of your bathtub or shower is a great idea. Because a bathroom usually has the hardest surfaces in your home, you certainly don’t want to fall there.

So focus on the bathroom to keep you more independent. There are many simple changes that could make the difference between independence and requiring a nursing home level of care. Usually, toileting and bathing is the most common reason a person needs additional assistance. Easy changes include a pedestal sink, which can be attractive, functional and less expensive than a vanity. A pedestal sink will allow a person in a wheelchair to pull all the way up to the sink, letting them reach the faucet.

The use of lever handles on your faucet reduces joint strain. A high toilet is essential for ease with standing and sitting. Grab bars should always be installed near a toilet. There are very decorative grab bars available now that do not make your home look institutional. Lastly, a zero threshold shower, that is, a shower that is flush with the floor, would let you live in your home more safely. A step in shower is good, but still can limit safety and accessibility as one ages. Also, a shower that has a molded seat should be avoided. Generally, the molded seats are not safe to sit on. They also pre- vent the use of safer seating options in the shower. There are also a variety of shower and tub seats that can be used when it is not feasible to do major renovations. A certified occupational or physical therapist should review your needs and home to tailor recommendations to you.

Cindy Tulimier is a Certified Occupational Therapist and Karen DeRosas has her masters in Physical Therapy. Both have an Executive Certificate for Home Modifications through the University of Southern California. As the founders of Independent Living Innovations, they have extensive experience working with elders and adults with disabilities. They can be reached at www.iliseniorservices.com, by calling 617-877-4036, 978-866-8782 or emailing cindyt@iliseniorservices.com.