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Home Safety and Modification

South Natick Dam
An opening in a stone wall offers entrance to the South Natick Dam/Photo by Douglas Flynn

Creating a safe environment is a vital component of caregiving, and is essential to helping your loved one stay in their home.

Some basic safety tips and home modifications can help create a better living environment, improve the quality of life and extend your loved one’s ability to stay in their own home.

Preventing Falls

Falls are one of the biggest dangers in the home, especially for older adults. But there are ways to reduce the risk of falls.

Here are some tips to limit the danger:

  • Make sure that there are clear paths through each room. Move furniture out of the way to create such paths.
  • Be aware of small area or throw rugs that could cause falls or slips. Remove such rugs or make sure they are secured with double-sided tape or a non-slip backing.
  • Make sure that there are no exposed cords or wires that could be tripped over.
  • Make certain there are no broken or uneven steps on any stairways. Also make sure that the handrails on any staircases are secure, run the full length of the stairway and are available on both sides.
  • In the bath, put a non-slip rubber mat on the floor of the tub and have a carpenter install grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet. A shower seat and hand-held flexible shower head are additional safety features worth considering.
  • Make sure all areas of the house are well lighted, especially stairways. Nightlights can also be helpful to see where you are walking at night.
  • Regular exercise can improve balance and help prevent falls.
  • Also be aware of any prescription or over-the-counter medications and the possible side effects they may have. Some medications can make the user drowsy or dizzy, which increases the risk of falling.

It may be necessary to make more significant modifications to the home to make it safe for your loved one.

Such modifications include adding safety rails to stairways, tubs and toilets; installing ramps and widening doorways for wheelchair access; leveling floors; installing doorknobs and faucets that are easier to use

When hiring a contractor to make home modifications, always be sure to get a background check and references on the contractor, get a written contract detailing all aspects of the project and agree on a payment schedule. Full payment should never be made upfront, and the final payment should not be made until all work is completed to satisfaction.

For more information on home modifications, check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging Home Modification Fact Sheet.

Home Modification Loan Program

There is financial help for Massachusetts residents seeking to make home safety modifications for elders or persons with a disability. The state-funded Home Modification Loan Program offered by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission provides loans to make such modifications to the primary, permanent residence of elders, adults with disabilities and families with children with disabilities to help allow them to remain in their homes and live more independently in their communities.

Loans can help finance projects to construct ramps, stair-lifts and wheelchair lifts, kitchen and bathroom adaptations, safety windows, fences and other home safety features.

Between $1,000 and $30,000 may be borrowed at 0% and 3% rates in either a deferred payment loan (DPL) or an amortized loan, which is secured by a promissory note and a mortgage lien. Homeowners eligible for a 0% DPL will not have to repay the loan until the property is sold or has its title transferred.

More information on the program can be found at the official Massachusetts state website or by calling 617-204-3739.

There are six regional Provider Agencies in the state to determine both income eligibility and eligibility of the proposed modification.

The agencies serving the MetroWest area are:

South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Inc. (SMOC)
Contact: Christina Cutting (ccutting@smoc.org)
Phone: 508-620-2682
Fax: 508-620-2683
TTY/TDD: 508-872-4853
Website: www.smoc.org/
MetroWest communities served: Ashland, Dover, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Sherborn, Sudbury, Wayland, Wellesley

RCAP Solutions Financial Services, Inc (RCAP)
Contact: Renee Perdicaro (rperdicaro@rcapsolutions.org)
Phone: 978-630-6725; 1-800-488-1969
Fax: 978-630-2751
TTY/TDD: 978-630-6754
Website: www.rcapsolutions.org/
MetroWest communities served: Bellingham, Franklin, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough

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This website is made possible through a grant and generous support from the MetroWest Health Foundation and is a program of BayPath Elder Services, Inc.