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Almost all of us want to age in place. We need to do so safely. For most seniors, this means making modifications. Making them before we need them can help prevent accidents which could lead to a nursing home stay. They can also help us function better without help – an especially important consideration now that Congress proposes to consign Medicaid home health care to the realm of the dodo.

The three most important home modifications seniors can make are:

  1. an entrance without steps,
  2. wide hallways that can accommodate wheelchairs, and
  3. single floor living.

The first two may require hiring a contractor. The last may require that or may simply mean designating a downstairs room as the master bedroom.

We will also need lever door handles and grab bars, perhaps something we can install ourselves, high toilets and light switches and electrical outlets which can be reached from a wheelchair.

Carpets and throw rugs must go. Hard kitchen tile might be replaced with cork. Slippery bathroom floors can be replaced with a textured tile.

Countertops should contrast with floor color to aid aging eyes with depth perception.

Walk-in/roll-in showers are in fashion. A tub/shower can be converted to one.

Planning and preparing can help us enjoy living at home and do so safely.

Terry Garrett is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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