Parent Proofing the Home
Excerpted from Parent Care: A Survival Guide for Adult Children of Aging Parents

If your aging parent wants and is able to stay at home, you will need to adapt your parent’s home to meet his or her changing needs to ensure his or her safety. Here are some key factors and strategies to consider.

Can your parent enter and exit the home without assistance? As it becomes more difficult for your parent to reach and bend, are the household items frequently used within easy reach? Here are some ideas for making items more accessible:

If possible, purchase appliances that are more user friendly:
• side-by-side refrigerator
• self-cleaning oven
• cooktop with automatic shut off if pot becomes too hot
• front controls on stove and range

If your parent uses a wheelchair, you may need to reorganize and renovate his/her living space:
• Most wheelchairs require 32” clearance through hallways and doorways
• Remove doors or replace with ones that have swing clear hinges
• Remove thresholds at doorways and install ramps wherever needed
• Lower counters
• Redesign the bathroom for wheelchair access

If your parent lives in a multi-level residence:
• Install a chair lift on the stairs so he or she can move easily between floors
• Or rearrange so all necessary rooms—bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room—are on one floor
If your parent’s mobility is extremely limited:
• Consolidate several necessary functions—cooking, dining, watching TV, or visiting with company—in a small area (one room)

Being vulnerable to falls is another common problem your aging parent may have living alone. Your parent’s home needs to be free from physical hazards. Here are some suggestions:

• scatter rugs
• any furniture or lamps that can easily be knocked over
• electric cords that are frayed or run across the floor
• shag carpeting
• slippery flooring
• clutter in walkways
• Clean and reorganize your parent’s home and remove any obstacles to safety
• Clear out closets crammed with an accumulation of possessions

• Install non-glare lighting throughout the home
• Make sure that the hallways and walk areas in and around the home are evenly lit
• Use the highest allowable wattage bulbs in all light fixtures and lamps
• Make sure that all rooms have a light near the door so that your parent will never walk into a dark room
• Have a light switch or lamp by your parent’s bed and by his/her favorite chair

In the bathroom:
• Apply textured vinyl strips to the tub and shower floors, or use nonslip mats
• Do not use scatter rugs
• Install grip bars beside your parent’s tub, above the sink, and beside the toilet as necessary
• Encourage your parent to use a long handled scrubber for cleaning the tub, shower, sink, toilets

In the kitchen:
• Have your parent wipe up all spills immediately
• Be sure he or she uses only a sturdy step stool with handrails to reach higher places
• Or provide long, lightweight tongs to reach for items

To keep your parent safe from crime:
• An emergency response system is a very good way of keeping your parent safe. He or she is able to summon help quickly in case of a medical emergency as well. (See Caregiver Resources, page193)
• Install good lighting around the perimeter of the home so that anyone approaching the building is visible to neighbors and passerby

Here is an additional list of items that will help make your parent’s home safer:
• Raised toilet seats
• Hand held shower head
• Bedside commode for nighttime
• Night light in bedroom and bathroom
• Cordless phone
• Replace door knobs with levers
• Telephone with large numbers
• Mediset for organizing medications for a week
• Nonbreakable glasses and dinnerware