Help make your parents' home a safe haven


Mom, I really worry about you and Dad in this house ...” So, you’ve talked to Mom and Dad and they want to stay in their home as long as possible. But you can’t be there all the time and you’re worried about their well-being. There are options and steps to take to make their lives safer and more comfortable.

Installing safety bars in the bathroom is a good idea. These can be put on the wall, or you can get a bar that attaches to the wall of the tub. My husband’s grandmother had a hard time allowing this in her bathroom. She was sure she didn’t need them, but there came a time when she was grateful for them.

Walk through your parents’ home and check for loose rugs or carpets. Make sure there are clear paths for them to walk. My father’s stacks of papers and magazines became an issue for Mom getting around. I had to glean from the bottom and get rid of bags of magazines each time I visited. That’s for another column ...

If eating healthily is an issue, there are options to explore. Many cities have Meals On Wheels, although the program is part of the sequester. Go to and search by Zip code for a program in your parents’ town. They only delivered hot meals a couple days per week so, as my mother became more laid up, I paid a local woman in their church to make them a hot meal 2-3 other days a week. They often got takeout on the other days.

Are your parents prone to falling? I was very worried about my mother going down to the basement for her canning or seasonal decorations, etc. I designated a closet on the main floor for these items and tried to get her to promise not to go downstairs. I know she said she wouldn’t just for my ears, but continued to go down.

For a monthly fee, there are alert systems connected to call centers that are on duty 24/7. MobileHelp has buttons you can wear around your neck or on your wrist with GPS location. Another system is 5 Star Urgent Response. Fees can range from $15-$30 per month, but be careful because some systems require up to a three-year contract.

You may find this helpful — Boston University has developed an independent living assessment questionnaire at to help seniors or their family to consider options. It can provide information that their health-care provider may find helpful, too.

If you are able to share the care of your folks with a sibling, it is important that you come to an understanding about what you are willing and able to do, and what each of your limits are. Make a list of things needing to be maintained or checked up on for their safety and comfort. If your parents can afford to pay for the help you get, all the better, but they may need convincing the money spent is worth it — not only for them, but for your peace of mind. It may fall to you, the children, to finance some of the aids. Be sure your spouses are brought in on the need.

Staying in their own home as long as possible is so nice, until it’s a safety issue. Peace of mind is worth a pound of gold for you, too. Make it a priority to assess, then plan how your parents’ home can remain their haven.

Patty Knittel is employed at Walla Walla University’s School of Nursing. An only child, she was caregiver for her aging parents, and writes about caregiving and other aging-related topics. She and her husband, Monty, live in Walla Walla. Email her at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in