10 Home Safety Tips for Seniors Aging in Place

Medicare Benefits Solutions
Feb 21, 2022

The proverbial American dream typically includes owning a home. Young families often set up their homes around home entertainment, study and play areas and gatherings of family and friends. But as you grow older, your needs change, and the layout and features of your home may no longer work for you.

What is Aging in Place?

The changes in mobility, balance, vision and hearing that typically come with age can hinder your ability to stay home safely. However, the alternative of a nursing home or an assisted living environment may not appeal to you. 

Aging in place is a term used to describe “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level,” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

The results of a 2017 AARP study showed that 90% of adults age 65 and over prefer to remain in their own homes as they age rather than moving into a retirement community.

Aging-in-Home Safety

Whether you hire a professional or manage the work yourself, aging-in-place plans should incorporate aging-in-home safety tips. Solutions can range from low-cost modifications to full-scale renovations, depending on your current home configuration and budget.

Low-cost modifications

  1. Furnish the bathroom with non-slip flooring, grab bars and shower chairs or bath seats.
  2. Line the bottom of the shower or tub with no-slip strips.
  3. Remove area rugs for safer mobility.
  4. Add light switches at the top and bottom of stairways.
  5. Get rid of doorknobs and faucets that are hard on arthritic hands, and replace them with levers that require less effort.

Aging-in-Place House Plans

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) published a 2018 report titled “Overview of Older Americans Act,” which stated that the U.S. is seeing a significant increase in the aging population:

  • By 2030, 73 million people in the U.S. will be 65 or older, equating to one in five people.
  • Between 2020 and 2030, the number of adults aged 85 and older is expected to increase by 35%.

Renovation and redesign

  1. Reconfigure the main floor to create one-level living.
  2. Update or remodel a bathroom for wheelchair accessibility to include walk-in showers.
  3. Install an ADA-approved accessibility ramp with handrails that extend from your entryway to your driveway or walkway.
  4. Widen doorways, which may involve electrical work to move light switches.
  5. Install a chair lift or elevator if you have stairs.

Aging-in-Place Specialists

Given the senior growth rate and how many seniors want to age in place, it is not surprising that the role of the aging-in-place specialist has emerged. In some areas, you can find a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) to help configure your home in a way that ensures you are aging in the home safely. Most people with a CAPS designation are home remodelers, but some also have health care and home care experience.

To begin searching for an aging-in-place specialist, you might start with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) directory of professional remodelers. It’s a good idea to then verify the individual’s track record with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Some people have success using neighborhood platforms like Front Porch Forum or Nextdoor to collect recommendations for local contractors.

Aging-in-Place Home Care

Even if your home is suitable for your changing needs, you will likely need assistance at some point with the essential activities of daily living (ADL). The National Institutes of Health refers to ADL as the “fundamental skills required to independently care for oneself.” 

The main activities of daily living include: 

  1. Bathing or showering
  2. Getting dressed
  3. Toilet hygiene
  4. Personal hygiene including brushing teeth
  5. Walking and climbing stairs
  6. Getting into and out of bed or chair
  7. Cleaning and maintaining home
  8. Preparing and eating meals 

If you have Medicare Part A and Part B, and your health care provider certifies that you are homebound, you may be eligible for home health services. However, Medicare coverage only applies if the services are medically necessary.

Medicare defines medically necessary services as those “needed to diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease or its symptoms and that meet accepted standards of medicine.” In terms of Medicare coverage, a medically necessary condition is generally temporary with an expectation that the condition will improve. 

When home health aides help with ADL associated with the natural course of aging rather than medical necessity, Medicare views the services as custodial care, not covered by Part A or Part B.

Final Age-in-Place Recommendations

Here are additional on how to prepare for safe aging-in-place:

  • Explore long-term care insurance options, including hybrid policies sold by some life insurance companies.
  • Research your aging-in-place house modification plans before you need them since renovations can be disruptive, expensive and time-consuming.
  • Research home health agencies in your area to understand their services and fees.
  • Before you hire a contractor, check references, BBB complaints, licensing and insurance, and try to get at least three bids for comparison.

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