This month I will begin an occasional series in Housing Matters listing some of the questions that get asked about various subjects concerning home modifications and their answers. If you have questions you would like to see answered here, please send them to cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com or call 540-384-2064. I hope this information is helpful to you.

  1. How do I know if home modifications are necessary? Many times, particularly if an aging parent lives alone, the other family members may not be aware of the struggles their loved one is having. Make a point when visiting to observe how they get around the house. Input from their doctor and other health care professionals may give you insight on their abilities and areas of difficulty. If you have concerns, it is probably time to consider an assessment. Find a contractor who specializes in home modification and who will coordinate with their health care team.
  2. What are the most important home modifications to have done? I break home modifications down into three categories, safety, accessibility, and convenience. While there is certainly some overlap and most projects will have elements of each, we need to consider the priority of projects in this order. Anything that presents a fall or other safety hazard should be taken care of immediately. Those modifications which enhance accessibility should be done as soon as possible, and those which are primarily for convenience can be delayed if budgetary concerns warrant.
  3. My loved one is very unsteady and I am worried about falls. What can I do to help prevent falls? You are correct to be concerned about falls. About one third of adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and of those who fall, two thirds will fall again within six months. The first thing you should do is make sure that there are no trailing extension cords, loose throw rugs, or clutter that could present a tripping hazard. Then make sure you have railings or grab bars installed wherever practical as something to hold onto. Having hand holds in place before they are needed will get you in the habit of reaching for them, so that when you need them the habit is already ingrained. Please don’t wait until after a fall to take action! Consider replacing slippery flooring with a non slip alternative. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  4. What are the most important home modifications to have done? I break home modifications down into three categories, safety, accessibility, and convenience. While there is certainly some overlap and most projects will have elements of each, we need to consider the priority of projects in this order. Anything that presents a fall or other safety hazard should be taken care of immediately. Those modifications which enhance accessibility should be done as soon as possible, and those which are primarily for convenience can be delayed if budgetary concerns warrant.
  5. It is hard for me to get in and out of the bathtub and I am afraid of falling. What should I do? I would strongly recommend that you have some grab bars installed. Having a strong handhold is especially important in the bathroom where surfaces are slippery and falls are common. In addition, you might want to consider a tub cut that converts your existing bathtub into a step in shower or removing the tub and installing a curbless shower. Also, if the floor of the bathroom or the shower is slippery, consider applying a non slip coating or stick on treads for a better grip.

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