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Aging at Home: Essential Tips for Safe Home Care

Written by Claire Samuels
 about the author
12 minute readLast updated December 7, 2022

About 77% of adults age 50 and older want to stay in their homes as they age, according to a study by AARP. To prevent injuries, reduce fall risks, and maximize independence for a loved one aging at home, it’s important for families and seniors to incorporate home safety tips and follow a home safety checklist. These steps, sometimes combined with safe home care services, can help seniors age in place longer.

Key Takeaways

  1. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in seniors 65 and older. Reduce your loved one’s risk of falling by removing trip hazards, installing grab bars, and following a home safety checklist.
  2. Technology can help promote home safety for seniors. Consider incorporating wearable medical alert devices, smart home services, and telehealth services into your loved one’s lifestyle.
  3. Being proactive is key to keeping your loved one’s home safe. A great way to be proactive is to schedule a thorough home safety inspection to check for things like fire hazards, fall hazards, and working alarms.
  4. Any house can be adapted to accommodate a safe home for your loved one. For example, electrical outlets can be moved to a more accessible location, chair lifts can replace long staircases in multistory homes, and ramps can replace exterior steps.

Take steps toward home safety for seniors

A graphic showing steps that can be taken in each room of a house to make a living space safer for seniors

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in seniors 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[01] With aging skin and decreased bone density, seniors often have difficulty recovering from falls physically, and the financial impact of medically supported recovery can be significant.

In fact, each prevented fall saves an average of $30,000 in hospital and rehabilitation costs, according to Fritzi Gros-Daillon, director of education and advocacy at Age Safe America.[02]

Follow these home safety tips to reduce fall risk and keep the elderly safe in their own homes:

  • Remove trip hazards. Area rugs, electrical cords, low tables, and ottomans are all risks. If there’s a pet or child in the home, be sure to keep toys picked up. Install nonslip flooring, and cover all cords and wires.
  • Install bathroom grab bars. Most in-home falls occur in the bathroom, says Gros-Daillon. Age Safe America calls falls “a preventable epidemic” and began a “Grab Bars are the New Seatbelts” campaign. Grab bars can be purchased at hardware stores and installed by handy do-it-yourselfers, plumbers, or home safety specialists.
  • Provide easy seating. Make the home senior friendly by adding accessible seating, like a bench near the front door for putting on shoes. Kitchen and shower stools make it easier for seniors to perform activities of daily living, like cooking and bathing independently.
  • Check thresholds. “Making thresholds easier to cross is one of the first things you should do to help keep seniors safe,” says Linda Bohmbach, cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing at Home Healthsmith, a home safety modification company in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.[03] Raised flooring between rooms can be a significant trip hazard. Ask a safety expert about flattening thresholds or adding indoor ramps or handrails.
  • Don’t forget outdoor spaces. Check the driveway for cracks regularly, and be sure there’s a clear path to the mailbox. Remove trip hazards like rocks and roots from the yard.

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Technology and medical alerts promote safe home care for elderly adults

Even if your aging relative isn’t tech-savvy, these simple and easy-to-use devices can help seniors aging at home by reducing fall risks, managing medication, and accessing help in case of emergency:

  • Medical alert devices can help with keeping the elderly safe in their own homes. Wearable devices, like LifeAlert or Bay Alarm Medical, have easy-access buttons to call for emergency assistance and can be connected to landlines or cellular service. Some companies, such as Life Station and Medical Alert, provide fall detection for an additional fee.
  • Automatic pill dispensers, such as Hero and MedaCube, are simple and safe ways to manage your medications. Alternatively, PillPack is a medication delivery service that sorts and prepackages your medications by date and time and delivers them to your door monthly.
  • Senior-friendly cell phones help older adults stay connected with friends and family, and they make emergency help more accessible in case of an accident. Some phones, like the GreatCall Jitterbug and the Consumer Cellular GrandPad, come with built-in emergency networks and GPS tracking.
  • Smart home devices “are a good way to help seniors get accustomed to technology,” says Bohmbach. “Even seniors who don’t want to use tech can benefit from reminders and services.” You can use smart devices to set medication reminders, make landline-to-landline emergency calls, and access entertainment like audiobooks and music.
  • GPS tracking devices are one way for caregivers and families to prevent the dangers of wandering in senior loved ones with dementia or memory loss.
  • Telehealth services provide seniors access to doctors and nurses without leaving the comfort of their homes. “We selected Electronic Caregiver based upon their strong customer support, 24/7 emergency response services, easily implementable systems, and advanced remote patient monitoring,” says Gros-Daillon.
  • Hearing aids can help increase in-home safety for those with hearing loss. Hearing loss may not directly cause a fall, but it can increase the risk of a fall. In October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved over-the-counter hearing aids for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, making them much more affordable and accessible for older adults.[04]

Following a home safety checklist can prevent risks

Home maintenance is key for seniors aging at home. Create a home safety checklist to review monthly, and suggest home safety assessments annually. Here are examples of questions to include on your list:

  • Does each level of the house have a working smoke detector?
  • Does the home have a carbon monoxide detector?
  • Are there easy-to-use fire extinguishers in all common rooms of the house?
  • Has the furnace been inspected?
  • Are the towel racks, bath mats, and handles secure?
  • Have burnt-out light bulbs been replaced?
  • Are there poorly lit places where smart lights or motion sensors with bulb alerts can be installed?
  • Have laundry lint traps been cleaned?
  • Are there funny smells, signs of hoarding, or excessive trash around the house?
  • Are your loved one’s doors and locks working properly?

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Home safety tips for seniors with dementia

Seniors with mild cognitive impairment may be able to age at home, but those who have begun to wander or have experienced significant memory loss should be supervised at all times.

If you’re caring for a senior loved one with dementia in your own home, take these additional safety precautions to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s home safety risks:

  • Use appliances with auto-shutoff features, or install hidden gas valves and circuit breakers, so that ovens, fireplaces, and stoves can’t be left on.
  • Put finger guards on garbage disposals, or cover switches with safety locks.
  • Lock all drawers and cabinets containing knives, cleaning supplies, and medication. Also, secure garages or basements that may contain harmful chemicals or machinery.
  • Make sure locks on exterior doors are out of sight (either high or low), or use deadbolts to prevent wandering outside the house.
  • Remove locks from the senior’s bedroom and bathroom so they can’t accidentally lock themselves in and start to panic.
  • Install easily accessible lights and night lights throughout the home to reduce disorientation at night.
  • Create clear paths and open areas. This helps to encourage independence and social interaction, which are two important needs for people with dementia, according to Clinical Interventions in Aging. [05]

Be proactive with safe home care for seniors

Often, elderly people don’t realize their home is unsafe and don’t feel the need to make changes, says Bohmbach. About half of those who request home safety inspections are seniors, and the other half are concerned relatives.

To help keep seniors safe in their own homes, it’s best to start preparing before an emergency or life-changing event. Proper precautions can reduce fall risks, and avoiding injuries makes it much easier for seniors to age at home.

“We believe that more people are getting the message about being proactive, but it’s a challenge,” says Gros-Daillon. “The consequences of a fall, like a trip to the ER, are more likely to be a motivator these days.”

By starting small with simpler additions — like grab bars, nonslip mats, and accessible light switches and door handles — you may be able to reduce the need for more significant and expensive renovations. A certified home safety specialist can help prioritize steps to keep your senior loved one safe in their home.

Schedule a home safety inspection

An initial inspection is a vital first step on any home safety checklist, as an expert may notice risk factors a family member can’t recognize.

“We start our safety audit at the driveway and work our way in to determine any potential hazards that may put you at risk,” says Bohmbach.

A thorough home safety inspection should include the following:

  • An assessment of “red zones,” like bathrooms, kitchens, staircases, porches, and outdoor steps
  • A search for existing fall hazards
  • A check for fire hazards and working alarms
  • Information about door widening, stair lifts, wheelchair ramps, and any other appropriate accessibility or safety additions
  • A comprehensive proposal, including pricing

Any home is adaptable for elderly safety

If your senior loved one is set on aging at home, accessibility devices can help. Chair lifts can be installed in multistory houses, and ramps can replace exterior steps.

Bohmbach notes that any home can be made senior-friendly with the right modifications, and that seniors deserve to feel independent in the houses they love.

“When they look in the mirror, they don’t see someone who’s older,” she says. “They see someone about to go off to war, or a businessman or a homemaker, so we make the modifications to help them live a full and independent life at home.”

Whether it’s small fixes like moving electric outlets to accessible locations and replacing doorknobs with lever handles, or bigger renovations like adding an elevator, home safety experts can help allow your senior loved one to age in place.

Safe home care for seniors aging in place

While accessibility devices and routine safety checks can help with home safety in elderly adults, assistance with health care and activities of daily living may become necessary as seniors age. In-home care and home health are valuable resources and can offer a range of benefits for seniors aging in place.

For expert support and guidance, you can contact a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. At no cost to your family, they’ll help you find an in-home care professional who can help your loved one stay safe at home.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 16). Keep on your feet — Preventing older adult falls.

  2. Gros-Daillon, F. Personal communication.

  3. Bohmbach, L. Personal communication.

  4. Yates, L., Csipke, E., Moniz-Cook, E., Leung, P., Walton, H., Charlesworth, G., Spector, A., Hogervorst, E., Mountain, G., Orrell, M. (2019, September 10). The development of the promoting independence in dementia (PRIDE) intervention to enhance independence in dementia. Clinical Interventions in Aging.

Meet the Author
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom. She’s written or contributed to more than 100 articles about senior living and healthy aging, with a special focus on dementia and memory care. Before writing about seniors, she worked as an account executive for independent and assisted living facilities across the Midwest. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, where she focused on literature and media studies.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

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