A survey conducted several years ago by the Home Saft, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home-related injuries, found that most seniors prefer staying in their home instead of moving to a senior living community.

According to this article by the New York Times, staying in your home is not only more comfortable it also makes economic sense.  The average annual fees at an assisted living facility are $34,000. In more expensive metropolitan areas, like New York, it’s closer to $70,000.

While your home environment can be a great support to aging-in-place, Jon Pynoos, professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, warns that it could be a health care hazard. Each year, nearly 7,000 seniors in the U.S. die from home-related accidents, and millions are seriously injured. Falls are the leading cause of injuries, but seniors and people with disabilities are also at risk for being burned by the stove, scalded by hot water, or drowning in the tub.

If you want to make your own home or a loved one’s home a safer, more comfortable place to live, here are some basic guidelines to the most efficient and cost-effective approaches.

Reduce House Hazards

Learn where your potential hazards are and how you can reduce them. Go to the Home Safety Council’s site which points out possible dangers room-by-room. Many of the recommended changes are simple and inexpensive, such as using non-slip mats on the floor and in the shower to prevent slipping on wet, slick surfaces, and using a raised toilet seat with handlebars to safely get up and down from the toilet.

Professional Assessment

If you have multiple medical issues, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist (O.T.) or contact a remodeling company like the Village Craftsmen that specializes in home modifications. The O.T. or a home remodeler can analyze your potential challenges and your home’s shortcomings and offer improvement suggestions. An O.T. can supply you with an invoice that lists the medical necessity of each improvement—a document that you might need to get reimbursed from a long-term care insurer.

Long-Term Care Coverage

If you have a plan, ask your insurance agent whether home modifications are covered under your plan and what documentation you need to be reimbursed. A policy will not pay for upgrades if you’re still healthy.

Home Equity/Reverse Mortgages

If you want to make substantial modifications to your home, but don’t have the cash on hand, consider taking out a home equity loan. For information on how you can tap into your home equity, go to LongTermCare.gov.

If a bank won’t give you a home equity loan, consider a reverse mortgage. Available to people over 62, a reverse mortgage lets you convert the equity in your home into cash. But the fees can be substantial, so be sure to speak with a financial planner before taking out this type of mortgage.

No Money?

Contact your local department of aging and inquire about home modification loans and services available to seniors. Use the federal government’s elder care locator — www.eldercare.gov — to find your local office, or call 800-677-1116. Some government agencies make low-interest loans to those with low or moderate incomes.

Finally, get in touch with Rebuilding Together (www.rebuildingtogether.org)  or 1-800-473-4229), a national nonprofit organization that helps people with low incomes improve their homes. The organization’s Safe at Home program was created specifically to help seniors stay safe as you age in place.

Are you thinking of renovating or making some simple changes to your bathroom to make it more accessible? Let us help. Village Craftsmen offers a THRIVE Bathroom Design Safety Program to not only help you age in place, but thrive in place.  An in-home, experienced rehabilitation technician will:

* LISTEN to your concerns regarding bathroom safety

* ASSESS your bathroom with the Thrive Safety Protocol

* PROVIDE you with recommendations for your safety & fall prevention

* ARRANGE for a quote to install safety enhancements if you desire

To learn more please complete the form on this page or call 330-896-2000.