Even if you're young and spry enough to skip up icy stairs with ease and dodge the potholes as you traverse your yard to get to the garden, that does not necessarily mean your guests will be. If you want your home and yard to be a safe place for elderly relatives when they come visit, then it's important to make eliminate common hazards. After all, you wouldn't want tea and cookies with grandma to turn into a trip to the emergency room.
Because every home is different, you should take a walk around yours and look for situations that may be dangerous to someone with limited mobility. A good start is to make sure you complete these four tasks.
Install railings on your staircases.
This is especially important for exterior stairs leading to your door. Your elderly guests will likely have a hard time getting up the stairs safely without a rail, especially in the winter months when snow and ice make the stairs slippery. Installing a railing is not as hard as you might think. If you have elderly guests coming in the next couple of days, pick up an inexpensive railing at your local home goods store, and follow the instructions to screw it into your stairs. This will make your stairs safe while you shop around for a well-made railing that matches your home's exterior. Iron is a popular choice because it does not rust and will last for decades, but wooden railings look nice on Craftsman and rustic-styled homes. Just remember to check your wooden railing for signs of rot every year, so it does not become unstable and unsafe.
Make sure you install iron railings on interior staircases, too. These are generally quite easy to install since they tend to mount on the walls with screws. Iron, once again, is a sturdy and affordable choice.
Fill in the holes in your walkways and yard.
You might think no one else will walk across the yard, but you never know if guests will want to go out and see your garden or take a closer look at the flowers along your back fence line. If there are any low spots or holes in your yard, fill them in with topsoil and plant grass on top. You'll instantly eliminate the tripping hazard, and within a few weeks, the grass will grow in so you can't see the patches. Make sure you fill any low spots in concrete or stone walkways, too. You can purchase small packages of concrete mix at most home and garden stores. Follow the instructions on the package to combine the concrete with water and fill in the holes.
Turn your hot water temperature down.
A little burn from water that was too hot may not concern you, but it is a bigger worry for an older person with thin skin who may burn more easily. To ensure your guests don't burn themselves, turn your hot water temperature down to 120 degrees F. This is hot enough for a pleasant shower and hand washing, but not hot enough to burn.
Put a chair or bench in your entryway.
Your guests will need somewhere so sit so that they can safely take off their shoes and coats when they come in the door. Make sure there is a comfortable chair or bench in the entryway where they can do so. This does not have to be anything fancy -- it can even be a plain, wooden chair that you store in your basement most of the year, and only take out before guests come over.
As you walk around your home, you're likely to find other situations that may not be safe for older guests. Electrical cords stretching across the floor present tripping hazards, for example. Mats in the bathroom should not be slippery. By identifying these potential hazards and taking action now, you're reducing the risk of injuries and accidents so you can better enjoy your time with loved ones.