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How To Set Up a Home for In-Home Care (2024 Guide)

Author Icon Written by Brenda Woods Updated 02/04/2024

Thanks to advancements in science, technology, and home design, more seniors choose to live at home as long as possible. An AARP survey found that 77% of adults over 50 want to stay in their homes long term, or “age in place.” However, one-third of respondents admitted their current homes would need to be modified to accommodate changing needs.

Most adults over 65 will require long-term care services. But without planning for future needs, it may not be possible to remain living at home. Fortunately, there are things you can do today to plan for the future.

“The point is to make any space accessible to anyone at any age or level of mobility,” said Diana Melichar, president of Melichar Architects and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. “At the end of the day, your home isn’t going to look like an institutional senior facility, but one that is cozy and to your liking.” 

We’ll cover the necessary structural and design modifications to help you create a home that supports the specific needs of your loved one and their caregiver.

Structural Home Modifications

Many homes are not designed with aging in mind, making daily tasks more difficult and even dangerous. Some structural home modifications may be required to help your loved one remain independent and live in their own home. 

There are five common structural modifications to improve accessibility, safety, and comfort while reducing the risk of falls and injuries. Before making any changes, consult a professional to evaluate the home and provide recommendations based on your loved one’s health, mobility, and lifestyle.

Entry Ramps

Ramps grant access to wheelchairs, but they also help prevent falls. More than 1 in 4 adults over age 65 fall each year, which can lead to life-changing (or life-ending) injuries. To prepare your home for a ramp, check the Guide to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessibility Standards for guidance. For example, the guide states that ramps must have a minimum clearance of 36 inches to be compliant. 


Ensure entrances and hallways have enough room to accommodate any future mobility aids, like a wheelchair or stair lift. The ADA standards are for manual doors to be at least 32 inches wide, with maneuvering clearances ranging from 42 inches to 60 inches depending on the type of door, swing direction, and other factors.

In most cases, hallways and other walking surfaces should be at least 32 inches wide.

Handrails and Grab Bars

Melichar suggests reinforcing the walls before installing handrails and grab bars. Place handrails along steps and staircases for safety, both indoors and outdoors. In the bathroom, reinforce the walls around the toilet, shower, and tub—any place where they may need a little help with their balance or with sitting down and getting up.

Raise Appliances and Lower Counters

Move appliances and other everyday items so they’re easier to access, especially if your loved one wants to live independently.

“Reaching high or low can be difficult. It’s best to place ovens, microwaves, and appliances between knee height and mid-chest height,” said Melichar. Get a riser for the dishwasher and pedestals for the washer and dryer, ideally front-loading.

“Make things easily accessible without having to bend over or reach up,” said Senior Wing founder Lucia Chang. “Lower countertops and vanities, remove the cabinets underneath, choose shallow sinks, set up motion-activated faucets, install pull-down shelves and rods, and replace round knobs with levers or pulls.”

Natural Light

Introducing more natural light into the home has multiple benefits, like improving visual contrast, boosting mood, reducing eye strain and fatigue, and helping regulate your circadian rhythm. Updating window curtains may be enough to brighten the home, or choose to add or replace windows in select areas of the home.

Home Design Modifications

Design modifications can significantly improve a senior’s quality of life without requiring major renovations, remodeling, or a huge budget. Well-lit spaces, improved accessibility, and technology can enhance seniors’ safety, comfort, and independence.

Here are five common design modifications that can help aging adults continue to live in their own homes as long as possible.

Safety Lighting

Add motion sensors to illuminate walkways and stairs, both indoors and outdoors. Put light switches and lamps in easy-to-reach places and dimmers to brighten spaces.

The Lighting Research Center reports that seniors need their living environments to be lit at a level at least 50% higher than what’s comfortable for younger people. The organization recommends ambient light levels be at least 300 lux (30 footcandles) and task areas at least 1,000 lux (100 footcandles) for older adults to see finer details.

Additionally, a 2017 study found 4100 Kelvin to be the ideal color temperature for aging adults with a cool or bluish appearance.

Non-Slip Flooring

Start by removing trip hazards (like rugs) around the home and replace them with non-slip mats—especially in the kitchen, bathroom, and any other wet areas. You can also buy non-skid or anti-slip tape for traction on tile and other smooth surfaces. Make sure the carpet is tightly secured. 

Organization and Layout

Clear walkways and corners of any obstacles to improve accessibility inside and outside the home. This may involve removing existing furniture, but it could also mean adding more seating or lowering their bed. 

Declutter rooms and closets and place any frequently used items in easy-to-reach cabinets and drawers. Consider replacing knobs, switches, and pulls with handles that are more comfortable and require less grip strength.

Assistive Devices and Technology

There are many analog and digital tools available to help your loved one live more independently, from simple button hooks to robot vacuums and voice-controlled apps.

“Consider assistive technologies designed specifically for folks who are hard of hearing and sight,” said Melichar. “Special smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available that produce tactile and visual alerts in case of an emergency. There are also alert devices that use sound, light, and vibration to help with doorbells, alarm clocks, and phones.”

Add Personal Touches

Remember, you’re not just updating a house to age in place. This is their home. “Consider adding personalized touches, such as family photos or favorite decor items, to make the space feel more welcoming,” said Lo’Aids founder Dayna Cooley. 

Work together to plan and make changes to the home, especially when deciding whether to keep or get rid of any items. You don’t want to accidentally donate a family heirloom or spend time and money on a paint job in the wrong color. Make sure you’re communicating and taking their wants into consideration.

Additional Considerations for In-Home Care

With a home that’s designed to meet the needs of older adults, caregivers can provide better care and support without sacrificing their own well-being. However, there is much more to prepare for than just home structural and design modifications. It may require a complete lifestyle change for everyone involved.

Fortunately help is available, whether you need a professional to walk you through the process or just need a little guidance before doing it yourself.

Contact a Professional

You can work with professionals across a variety of industries who specialize in senior care and aging in place:

  • Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) are home builders, remodelers, and designers who’ve completed specialized training in aging-in-place home modifications and signed a code of ethics pledge. This is a designation from the National Association of Home Builders. 
  • A geriatric care manager is usually a licensed nurse or social worker who can help you form a long-term care plan and find services in your area. 
  • A certified Aging Life Care Professional is a member of the Aging Life Care Association and often has specialized degrees in social work, psychology, gerontology, nursing, or therapy.

Start Early

Scott Witt, founder of Select Home Care Portland, said it’s never too early to start preparing for aging in place. In fact, he recommends planning before an event happens.

“We often see families after their loved one has fallen, broken a hip, or had an unexpected change of a medical condition. The families haven’t been in this situation before and are working through it for the first time. It can be overwhelming,” Witt said.

Create a Checklist

“One way to simplify the daunting tasks of making a home comfortable and livable for a senior citizen is by creating a checklist,” recommends Cooley. “This can help you prioritize tasks and make sure nothing important is missed.”

Personal Safety Devices

You can never have enough options when it comes to safety. Wearables, smart devices, alarms, and other tech can alert first responders and family members and even grant entry access if there’s an emergency.

“Provide personal safety alarms and smart-home voice assistants so your loved one can easily call out for help,” said Chang. “Consider setting up health, activity, and location monitors that alert you proactively of falls, medical issues, wandering, or other emergencies.”

Find Support

Resources are available to both caregivers and those tasked with finding help for their loved ones. The Family Caregiver Alliance offers a variety of online and in-person support groups for family caretakers. The AARP also has a list of national agencies, groups, and organizations for caregiving services and support.

You can also get training to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. “Typically the caregiver needs to be a certified health care professional, so they might consider getting their Certified Nursing Assistant or Home Health Aide certifications, which can take just a few weeks,” said Dreambound founder Athena Kan.

Our Conclusion

When seniors choose to age in place, it’s important to plan for home modifications that will support their safety and maintain their quality of life. Consider your loved one’s needs and preferences now and in the future. Start early, plan ahead, and if you need a little help, there are trained experts available to guide you through the process. 

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