10 Ways to Upgrade Your Home for an Older Family Member

As your parents and loved ones age, you may need to make some changes around the house to keep them happy and healthy—whether they're moving in or visiting.

Limited mobility is one of the most common issues we face as we age. It’s important to focus on home safety tactics that also preserve independence. Keep your house safe and welcoming with our checklist for elderly loved ones and guests.

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From our health expert

We asked our health expert Sally Russell for insight on preparing your home for older loved ones. We've added her feedback throughout this checklist to help you cover more ground.

"Please know you're not alone." Helping your aging mom or dad move into your home can feel overwhelming, especially with their safety now in your hands. Here's where to start.

1. Replace dangerous flooring

Fall prevention is a big part of improving your home for an older family member. If your loved one has balance issues or drags their feet, your high-pile carpet, hardwood floor, or tile floor can be a tripping hazard for them.

If an older adult is moving into your home, consider making changes to risky flooring. Avoid trips, slips, and falls by replacing high-pile carpet with low pile, and review the slip rating of hardwood, tile, and laminate flooring to ensure that high-traffic areas are as safe as possible.

Pattern hazards

Swap out patterned carpets, rugs, and flooring for more solid colors to minimize a tripping hazard.

"Floors that have a pattern sometimes cause those with poorer vision to feel the floor is not even," says Russell. 

2. Secure rugs

StepNGrip Rug Gripper

Secure area rugs with a non-slip pad or grip tape to minimize fall risk. StepNGrip's NeverCurl Rug Gripper is an affordable solution that’s easy to install.

In addition to keeping your rugs in place, this gel-based gripper keeps rug edges from curling and can be reactivated with water if you need to move the rug for cleaning. Users report that the gripping gel leaves no marks and even works for rugs placed over carpet.

Watch those cables

Many of us have cables and electrical cords throughout our house for appliances, lights, lamps, and other electronics. Before your older loved one moves in, be sure to tame those cables and extension cords to avoid tripping hazards. 

3. Add a shower bench

Drive Medical Transfer Bench

A shower bench in the bathroom reduces slipping risks and gives your older family member the independence to shower on their own or with limited assistance.

Many benches stand on their own inside your shower or bathtub, but a transfer bench adds extra security as your loved one enters and exits the shower.

Drive Medical’s Transfer Bench is reversible and sturdy—meaning it can accommodate any bathroom and support up to 400 pounds. Many users say it works best with a handheld shower, so consider adding the Aqua Elegante Handheld Showerhead to make the bath or shower as safe and comfortable as possible.

4. Upgrade to a walk-in tub

CleanCut Step Bathtub Converter Kit

The bathroom can be a dangerous place for older adults. When your senior loved one moves in, you may need to make adjustments to your bathtub or shower to make sure they can bathe safely. 

Starting at just under $400, you can convert your existing bathtub into a senior-safe walk-in tub. The CleanCut Step Bathtub Accessibility Kit makes the high walls of your current bathtub easier for your loved one to step into. It requires some handy know-how and tools, but makes showering much safer for older adults.

Another bathroom safety option is to upgrade your current tub to a walk-in bathtub. This gives your older family member the safety and convenience they need to bathe on their own. The Ariel Walk-In Bathtub is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and comes with a safety grab bar and non-slip floor.

5. Light stairs properly

IdeaWorks motion sensor lights

Ideally, senior family members won’t have to tackle too many stairs. But if there’s no way to avoid it, make sure their treks up and down are as safe as possible.

Provide adequate lighting on all staircases: you can add a lighted handrail or install lighting under each stair. Motion sensor lights by IdeaWorks are easy to install and won’t increase your power bill. A package of fifteen lights is less than $20, and they’re easy to mount to the wall along your staircase.

6. Make climbing stairs easy

3M Safety Walk

Adding extra grip to your stairs is another way to avoid stair-related falls.

Add grip tape to non-carpeted stairs or non-slip tread mats that work on stairs with or without carpet. Do this to all staircases inside and outside your home.

If your older family member is moving in and regular use of stairs is unavoidable, you might want to consider a stair-assist chair. Harmar’s stair lift has an adjustable seat and comes with a lifetime warranty on the motor and drivetrain.

7. Use home automation

Google Nest Thermostat

Home automation provides comfort, safety, and more hands-free control for seniors.

A smart thermostat can automatically adjust to keep your loved one warm and toasty. Smart lights can be programmed to turn on and off at certain times of the day. And motion sensors can trigger lights that make sure no one is left in the dark.

If you’re new to home automation, consider starting with Philips Hue smart lightbulbs or the Nest Smart Thermostat.

Both are compatible with a number of other smart devices and are affordable ways to start turning your house into a safer, smarter home.

8. Plug in a security system

A security system can provide that extra level of comfort you and your older family member needs.

Many advanced security systems let you check in remotely via a computer or smartphone so you can keep an eye on your loved one all day long.

You can also program alerts to let you know if anyone unexpectedly leaves the house or yard—an especially useful feature if they have memory loss or are prone to wandering.

9. Install grab bars and handrails

Moen Grab Bar

One of the easiest ways to increase home safety for seniors is with handrails and grab bars.

Staircases, bathrooms, hallways, and even bedrooms can benefit from the addition of safety bars to help keep your loved one stable and secure as they move about the home.

Moen makes an attractive, sturdy 36-inch grab bar that is ADA compliant and can withstand up to 500 pounds of pressure.

This bar provides extra stability in the bath, shower, near the toilet, or anywhere else in the home. It also features SecureMount design, which ensures safe installation at any angle.

10. Affix a bed rail

Medline Bed Rail

A bed rail helps keep your older family members steady as they get in and out of bed. The Medline Bed Assist Bar fits snugly between the mattress and box spring, and it includes a pocket to hold books, magazines, or anything else your loved one needs close at hand.

This bed assist bar also helps with changing sleep positions throughout the night. Whether it’s needed temporarily for help after surgery or permanently for long-term support, this is a simple, affordable solution for bedtime safety.

Final word

Keeping everyone safe and comfortable in your home is important—especially as family members get older or are living with you during the pandemic.

Make sure your older family members always feel welcome and secure by taking note of the support they need. Start by considering these simple home upgrades and adjustments to increase safety for the seniors in your life.

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Data effective 05/13/2021. Offers and availability subject to change.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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