Holiday Hosting Tips: The Best Ways to Prepare Your Home for Aging Parents

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The holidays are an essential time to check in on aging loved ones. If they’re visiting your home for the holidays, you’ll need to adequately prepare to keep them safe. Some of you may even be preparing for a conversation with elderly loved ones about moving in long-term.

Children of elderly parents should have an understanding of the changes they may need to make to their homes before having these conversations. You might feel nervous to begin adapting your home for your aging loved one’s needs, but there are simple changes you can make no matter your budget. 

Here are some tips for adjustments that will make your home more accessible to seniors to help reduce fall risks.  

Most Homes Need Adjustments to Accommodate a Senior Family Member

According to a study from the U.S. Census Bureau conducted in May 2020, less than 10% of U.S. homes are “aging-ready.[1]” In order for a house to be “aging-ready,” it must have a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor, step-free entryway, and at least one accessibility feature in the bathroom (i.e. shower seat or grab bar). People are living longer and longer, but most homes don’t support the type of accessibility that older folks need. Older homes might need special attention.

Fast And Low-Cost Changes

These easy modifications can make your loved one feel more safe and comfortable, whether they’re visiting for the holidays or moving in permanently. Depending on how handy your loved one is, you could work on some of these projects together. 

  • Slip-proof mats for tubs and showers. Rubber-backed mats provide more stability in an otherwise slippery setting. 
  • Waterproof seat in the shower. Install a waterproof seat in the shower so that your loved one does not have to stand and risk falling.
  • Toilet seat risers. Raising the toilet seat by 3-4 inches means your loved one does not have to squat as much. Squatting requires a certain level of balance and strength, the lack of which can result in a fall. 
  • Handlebars in the bathroom. Useful places for a bathroom handlebar include next to the toilet, at the shower entrance, and in the shower. 
  • Slip-proof rugs. Give small throw rugs away, as they are a fall risk. Slip-proof rugs are a great alternative.
  • Accessible shelving. Move items to low shelves so no one needs to use a step stool to access necessary things. 
  • Non-slip wax. Use non-slip wax to make floors less slippery. 
  • Medical alert system. The In-Home + Fall Detection medical alert system is perfect for around-the-house use. If you’re looking for a mobile option, Alert1 offers a variety of options, including wristbands, lanyards, and even an On-the-Go Wrist Watch Medical Alert + GPS + Pedometer.
  • Easy-to-navigate furniture. Get rid of furniture you don’t need. Keep sturdy pieces. Push furniture against walls and make sure there are clear paths in each room. Use corner guards on sharp corners. Give away chairs that have wheels or remove the wheels.
  • Lever-style doorknobs. Round doorknobs are difficult to grip. Replace round doorknobs with lever-style doorknobs so that they are easier to use.
  • Highlighting tape on stairs, shower chairs, and door jambs. Stick highlighting tape onto potential fall risk areas so that your loved one can have better visibility at night. 
  • Sand or salt on icy areas. Winter is an especially dangerous time for seniors. You can prevent falls during winter by targeting icy areas on your driveway and sidewalks.  
  • Designated pet area. If you have a pet, it might be helpful to keep your pet away from your loved one. A pet underfoot creates a fall risk. Set up a baby gate to keep your pet and your parents safe.

Other Types of Modifications

You might have more time and resources to invest in elder-friendly modifications. If so, these suggestions are perfect. 

  • New flooring. Rubber flooring helps prevent falls. The material is slip-resistant and relatively soft. If your loved one falls, rubber flooring helps minimize injury. 
  • Increased emergency/security access. Many older folks do not carry their cell phones with them everywhere. A medical alert system can establish immediate emergency contact and has the added bonus of easy-to-wear, total mobility. 
  • Brighter lighting. Bright lights make it easier to navigate spaces around the house. Adding more lights brightens up dark corners and makes each room easily navigable.
  • Electric stair lift. If your loved one has trouble getting upstairs, installing an electric stair lift will make everyone’s life a little easier. This fall-prevention method is more expensive but could save tons of stress. Stairs are a fall risk for even the most active of seniors. An electric stair life could be the key to accommodating your loved one’s needs. 
  • Grip-strips on stair railings. If you do not have an electric stair lift, try to make the stairs as safe as possible. Grip-strips are adhesives that provide stability on the railing. 
  • Zero-threshold entryways. Make each entryway safer by removing steps and thresholds. A ramp usually replaces steps. 
  • Walk-in shower entry. Stepping over the edge of a tub to enter a shower can increase the risk of falling. If you have the means, a bathroom remodel could accommodate a walk-in shower, new lighting, handlebars, and a raised toilet. 

If you have more resources to invest into house modifications, consider hiring a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). This specialist helps you use home modifications to accommodate your loved one’s fall prevention needs. CAPS are uniquely qualified to provide guidance about what elderly folks need at home. Their expertise can make the modification process easier. 

Other Tips for Preventing Falls

While you prepare your home for your aging loved one, there are other steps your loved one can take to prevent falls. Share this list with them to encourage a healthier, safer lifestyle. 

  • Stay active. Low-impact activities like swimming, stretching, and tai chi can help your loved one prevent falls. Strength and balance are integral to fall prevention. You can even take a daily walk using an On-the-Go medical alert system.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes. You can buy an indoor and outdoor pair for your loved one. The colder months are a great time to upgrade your loved one’s boots to a sturdy, slip-resistant pair.
  • Check medications for side effects. Many older folks take daily medications. Conduct regular medication reviews with your care team to see if any medications have side effects that increase your risk of falling.
  • Get your vision and hearing tested. If you need glasses or hearing aids, make sure to wear them daily. The ability to see and hear is important when it comes to fall prevention.
  • Reduce alcohol intake. A small amount of alcohol can impact your balance and cause you to fall. 
  • Schedule regular check-ups. Doctors can not only diagnose issues that could affect fall risk, but they are also an important part of the fall recovery process. Make sure to keep your doctor informed about any falls. 

How To Start The Conversation

The holidays might be one of the few times that your family gathers throughout the year. Set aside some time to discuss your aging loved one’s care plan together. Read more about tips for long-term care planning here. Integrate your loved one’s potential move into a larger conversation about their care plan. 

Use empathy and compassion when discussing changes in your loved one’s care plan[2]. Some seniors value their independence and prefer to age-in-place. However, aging-in-place is not always an option for seniors who need extra assistance. If you advocate for your parents joining your household long-term, understand that your loved ones might have mixed feelings about moving in with you. It might be helpful to prepare for an emotional conversation.

Be patient during the conversation and throughout the moving process, if it occurs. You both are making a huge adjustment, so emotional responses are normal[3]. Find household changes that you can work on with your loved one. Getting involved in different house modification projects could inspire excitement about the move. 

A Medical Alert System Can Make Everyone Feel More Secure

Whether you welcome your parents for a short-term holiday stay or a more permanent arrangement, a medical alert system is a wonderful tool to increase everyone’s comfort.

An Alert1 medical alert system is a low-cost addition to your care plan. You and your loved one will never pay for multiple button pushes or “false alarms.” Using a medical alert system is a budget-friendly way to provide security and protection for aging parents. 

You spend time, energy, and money taking care of your loved ones. An In-Home + On-the-Go + Fall Detection medical alert system can provide similar support for your loved one when you aren’t home. In the event of a fall, an Alert1 medical alert system will connect your loved one with a trained and certified agent who stays on the line with them until help arrives. 



[1] Vespa, Jonathan, Engelberg, Jeremy, He, Wan. May 2020. Old Housing, New Needs: Are U.S. Homes Ready for an Aging Population? Old Housing, New Needs: Are U.S. Homes Ready for an Aging Population?

[2] Ni, Preston. 2014, Dec. 7. How to Communicate with Difficult Seniors and Older Adults. Psychology Today. How to Communicate with Difficult Seniors and Older Adults.

[3] Roberts-Grey, Gina. 2017, Nov. 13. 10 Ways to Cope When an Aging Parent Moves In. 10 Ways to Cope When an Aging Parent Moves In.