Making Home Safer for Seniors


For many years I tried to convince mom to have a handyman come in and make some simple changes to make their home safer.  I wanted them to have grab bars installed in the bathtub.  I thought it would be helpful to have a geriatric case manager come in and review the house and make suggestions to make the home safer so they could age in place.

Mom had some vision loss and was expecting further deterioration of her vision.  I thought someone (other than me as they wouldn’t listen to me!) could suggest removing the throw rugs and making a clear path from bedroom to kitchen and living area.

Mom and dad refused all suggestions.  This was really a suggestion to mom since even 5 or more years ago it was clear that she was caring for dad and making most of the decisions.

It wasn’t until their very last year together that a case manager went out to their mobile home in the south to review their living conditions.  At that time both mom and dad were assessed to determine if they were eligible and qualified for case management and other help.

Since dad was over age 88 by that time, he immediately qualified for a case manager and mom was on a wait list for one also.  The case manager reviewed the conditions in their mobile home and immediately decided that they needed grab bars in the shower.  They also qualified for meals on wheels, a home alert button and a person to assist with home chores 4 hours per week.  They did have to pay a minimal fee of about $50 per month for these services.  I secretly paid these bills so that mom wouldn’t refuse this help.

The case manager determined that mom and dad couldn’t really afford the cost of installing the grab bars and repairing the bathroom floor which had rotted because of a leaking toilet.  That agency had a certain amount of money set aside each year to help qualified elders with jobs that would increase their safety at home and thus help them avoid assisted living or a nursing home.

I was very relieved when they finally qualified to have this work done.  It was completed in the spring.  The only problem with that was that after they fixed up dad’s shower I learned that dad had totally stopped taking showers because of his Alzheimer’s disease!

Within a few months mom experienced deteriorating health conditions and I had to move both mom and dad into an assisted living facility.  Finally they had the grab bars in the bathroom and an aide to help dad with his showers.  After years of worry about falls, mom and dad were now in a much safer environment.

It is frustrating to note that mom did fall only a few months later and even grab bars couldn’t help her.  She fell in her living room right by her chair and she had no warning that she was about to fall.

Still, I am glad that I finally got mom and dad into a safe situation, and I wish I could have gotten their home reviewed for safety many years before it was finally done.

When I was only in my 40’s I tripped over a cracked sidewalk and broke my foot when I fell.  I ended up on crutches for awhile.  About ten years later, I tripped as I ran and broke the same foot again, this time more seriously.  I had to get a ride to the emergency room and a cab home and I missed 6 weeks of work.  The hardest part for me was walking with crutches and trying to carry anything, especially a cup of tea.  I was lucky I was able to work from home for a few weeks.

Now I live in a rental senior community and have seen some of my neighbors struggle after having hip or knee surgery.  I have never had that type of surgery myself, but I always worry about falling.  With my history of breaking my foot, and knowing I have osteoporosis, I know I don’t want to fall.

Recently, several of my neighbors have had grab bars installed and other modifications made to help them age in place.  A few years ago I had purchased some grab bars and other equipment at a medical supply store.  These did not have to be installed as they worked with by tension or suction.   However in cold weather, the grab bar tended to fall off the wall!  I really wanted one permanently installed but my son was afraid he didn’t know how to properly do so with our oddly shaped bathtub/shower fixture.

The other day I noticed a white van at my neighbor’s house.  It had a business name on the side and large type stating that they installed grab bars and other home modifications.  I asked my neighbor about it and she was very happy with the work they had done.

I decided to call that company myself and they came to install the grab bars last week.  I spoke to the owner and he told me he worked with the local office on Aging and other elder agencies for many years.

I had grab bars installed in my main bathroom and I am very happy with them.  I am not yet of an age where they would be considered a necessity the way I thought they were for my parents.  On the other hand, why wait until I have a serious need and then have to do it in a hurry?  Since I have had two experiences with a broken foot, I am glad to have these installed now.  I feel more secure knowing I am prepared if I need these, and my children won’t have to worry about me the way I worried about my parents.

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and the primary caregiver for my father. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with others who are also trying to care for a family member and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues around the care of my father and the relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Caregiving, Elder Care, Eldercare, Fall Prevention, Home Safety and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Making Home Safer for Seniors

  1. terry1954 says:

    I am glad you received the bars. Many a time they helped Al when he began to fall in the shower

    • Thanks, Terry. Me too. They are pretty standard in senior living complexes, but the rest of us in independent housing need to be proactive also. It would have helped a lot if I had them 25 years ago when I first broke my foot. I don’t think I even thought about it at that time, and again 10 years later when I did it again! At least my friend brought me a shower stool that time. I was lucky she had broken her foot first! She learned what to do and then taught me. Now I am trying to remind others that you don’t have to be a senior to bet some things in place to prevent falls.

  2. hopeandwings says:

    I don’t think grab bars necessarily make a him look like a seniors residence. When i updated my shabby bathroom several years ago ( I just didn’t love the blue or the green bathtubs from the seventies) I had grab bars installed as part of the renovation. I don’t need them yet, but who knows what is going to happen in the future? They are there, and right now, they are handy to hang my bath scrubby on, or a few dainties can hang there to dry. I enjoy your blog, very well written about a difficult subject.

    • Thanks for your comment, Hopeandwings. I think ALL new homes should be built for agong in place. They shoud all have grab bars in the tubs and showers and wide enough doorways for a wheelchair or walker to get through. Relatively simple design features make a home more livable for people of all ages. We would all benefit from these things at any age — but especially children and older adults.

  3. Pingback: Travel Assistance for Older Adults | Let's Talk About Family

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