Making your place safe for mom and dad as they age
A lot of housing-trend headlines these days are devoted to adult kids moving back in with their parents, but another multigenerational movement also is on the rise: parents moving in with their grown-up children and their families.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 14% of adults living in someone else’s household are a parent of the head of the household, a number that has increased from 7% in 1995. With this growing need to house older adults with other family members all under one roof, AARP—a national nonprofit representing older Americans—has some simple safety steps you can take to get your place ready for mom and dad’s arrival.
TWO LEVELS OF SAFETY CHANGES
AARP offers two levels of recommended safety changes, one lower-cost and one more expensive. Here are immediate low- or no-cost steps you can take to make your home safer for your parents:
- Add textured, no-slip strips to bathtub and shower surfaces.
- Apply nonslip wax on floors.
- Place waterproof seats or chairs in showers.
- Remove throw rugs, which present slip-and-fall hazards.
- Remove any wheels on chairs.
- Replace standard doorknobs with easier-to-use lever handles.
- Replace standard toilets with raised or high-profile toilets.
AARP’s more expensive recommended modifications, which may require professional help to accomplish, make homes more accessible for older adults’ wheelchair use:
- Alter showers for walk-in rather than step-over entry.
- Create zero-threshold entryways.
- Move light switches down for easy access from wheelchairs or beds.
- Widen doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchair width.
HOME-PREP HELP IS AVAILABLE
AARP notes that, while some of these suggested changes have costs involved, financial assistance may be available:
- Prescription—In some cases, a doctor’s prescription for a change deemed medically necessary may mean funding coverage.
- Medicare—While traditional Medicare doesn’t cover most retrofits, some types of Medicare Advantage plans now allow for coverage of some safety devices and improvements.
- Federal loans and grants—If your family income is low, you live in a rural area, and the home being modified belongs to someone age 62 or older, the renovations may qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants Program.
- Habitat for Humanity—This nonprofit organization offers a home-preservation program for families with low incomes, and some local affiliates help with accessibility.
In addition, the California Department of Aging contracts with and oversees local Area Agencies on Aging that coordinate a variety of services for older adults, family caregivers, and others, and these state and local agencies may have resources or references available to assist you.
If you or a loved one need help implementing home-safety steps for parents or older individuals, contractors licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board are here for you. To find a licensed professional in your area, visit www.cslb.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Foiling the Fall: Reversing a Scary Trend for Seniors