Making the Home Safe for an Aging Parent After a Hospital Stay

Mallory J Greene
Mallory J Greene
May 16th 2024 - 7 minute read
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Caring for an aging parent after returning home from a hospital stay can be challenging. This article discusses ways to make your parent's home safe and accessible, allowing them to maintain their independence while minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries.

Caring for an aging parent can be a challenging and emotional experience, especially when they are returning home from a hospital stay. As a loved one, it is natural to want to ensure that your parent is safe, comfortable, and well-cared for during their recovery. One of the most important steps in this process is making sure that their home is properly prepared and equipped to meet their changing needs.

In this blog post, we will explore the various ways in which you can make your parent's home safe and accessible, allowing them to maintain their independence and quality of life while minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries.

Assessing Your Parent's Needs

Before making any changes to your parent's home, it is essential to assess their specific needs and limitations. This may involve consulting with their healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, or physical therapists, to gain a better understanding of their medical condition and any special requirements they may have.

Some key factors to consider when assessing your parent's needs include:

  1. Mobility: Can your parent walk independently, or do they require assistance from a walker, cane, or wheelchair?
  2. Balance: Is your parent at risk of falling due to balance issues or weakness?
  3. Vision: Does your parent have any visual impairments that may affect their ability to navigate their home safely?
  4. Cognitive function: Is your parent experiencing any memory loss, confusion, or other cognitive changes that may impact their daily activities?

By understanding your parent's unique needs, you can create a tailored plan to make their home safe and comfortable.

Home Modifications for Accessibility and Safety

Once you have assessed your parent's needs, it is time to make the necessary modifications to their home. These changes can range from simple adjustments to more extensive renovations, depending on your parent's specific requirements and the layout of their home.

Entryways and Doorways

Ensuring that your parent can easily enter and exit their home is crucial for their safety and independence. Some modifications to consider include:

  1. Installing a ramp or lift: If your parent uses a wheelchair or has difficulty climbing stairs, a ramp or lift can provide a safe and accessible entry point.
  2. Widening doorways: If your parent uses a walker or wheelchair, widening doorways to at least 32 inches can allow for easier navigation throughout the home.
  3. Removing tripping hazards: Ensure that entryways and doorways are free of clutter, loose rugs, or other potential tripping hazards.

Bathroom Safety

The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous areas in the home for aging parents, as it presents a higher risk of slips and falls. Some modifications to consider include:

  1. Installing grab bars: Placing grab bars near the toilet, shower, and bathtub can provide additional support and stability for your parent.
  2. Using a shower chair or bench: A shower chair or bench can allow your parent to sit while bathing, reducing the risk of falls and fatigue.
  3. Adding non-slip mats: Placing non-slip mats in the shower, bathtub, and on bathroom floors can help prevent slips and falls.
  4. Raising the toilet seat: A raised toilet seat can make it easier for your parent to sit down and stand up, reducing the strain on their joints and muscles.

Kitchen Accessibility

The kitchen is another area where safety and accessibility modifications can make a significant difference in your parent's daily life. Some changes to consider include:

  1. Lowering countertops and cabinets: If your parent uses a wheelchair, lowering countertops and cabinets can make it easier for them to prepare meals and access items.
  2. Installing pull-out shelves and drawers: Pull-out shelves and drawers can make it easier for your parent to reach items without having to bend or stretch.
  3. Using adaptive utensils and appliances: Adaptive utensils, such as weighted or easy-grip options, and appliances with large, easy-to-read buttons can help your parent maintain their independence in the kitchen.

Bedroom Comfort and Safety

Creating a safe and comfortable bedroom environment is essential for your parent's well-being and quality of sleep. Some modifications to consider include:

  1. Adjusting bed height: Ensuring that your parent's bed is at a comfortable height can make it easier for them to get in and out of bed safely.
  2. Installing bed rails: Bed rails can provide additional support and prevent falls while your parent is sleeping or getting in and out of bed.
  3. Placing a bedside commode: If your parent has difficulty getting to the bathroom at night, a bedside commode can provide a convenient and safe alternative.

Lighting and Fall Prevention

Adequate lighting is crucial for preventing falls and ensuring that your parent can navigate their home safely. Some modifications to consider include:

  1. Installing motion-activated lights: Motion-activated lights can automatically turn on when your parent enters a room, reducing the risk of falls in dimly lit areas.
  2. Placing night lights: Night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and other areas can help your parent navigate their home safely at night.
  3. Removing tripping hazards: Ensure that floors are free of clutter, loose rugs, or electrical cords that could pose a tripping hazard.

Emergency Preparedness

In addition to making home modifications, it is essential to have an emergency plan in place to ensure your parent's safety in the event of an unexpected situation. Some steps to consider include:

  1. Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working properly throughout your parent's home.
  2. Creating an emergency contact list: Compile a list of important phone numbers, including family members, healthcare providers, and local emergency services, and place it in a visible location.
  3. Developing an evacuation plan: Create an evacuation plan that outlines the safest and most accessible routes out of the home in case of an emergency, and practice it with your parent regularly.

Ongoing Support and Monitoring

Making your parent's home safe and accessible is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and adjustments. As your parent's needs change over time, it is important to reassess their home environment and make any necessary modifications to ensure their continued safety and comfort.

In addition to home modifications, it is crucial to provide your parent with ongoing support and assistance as needed. This may involve enlisting the help of family members, friends, or professional caregivers to assist with daily activities, such as meal preparation, medication management, and personal care.

Ensuring that your aging parent's home is safe and accessible after a hospital stay is a critical step in promoting their independence, well-being, and quality of life. By assessing your parent's needs, making necessary home modifications, and providing ongoing support and monitoring, you can create a comfortable and secure environment that allows them to age in place with dignity and peace of mind.

Remember, every parent's situation is unique, and it is essential to approach the process of making their home safe with compassion, patience, and understanding. By working closely with your parent, their healthcare providers, and other support systems, you can create a personalized plan that meets their specific needs and ensures their safety and happiness in the comfort of their own home.