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Bathroom and Kitchen Modifications to Improve the Safety of a Visually-Impaired Loved One

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The following was submitted by a visitor to this site. They hope this information will help the blind and low vision community everywhere. We here at Fedora Outlier thank the author for the submission.

If your loved one recently has become visually impaired, you need to prepare your home to accommodate him as soon as possible. There are a few essential home modifications you should make to ensure his safety first, and these changes naturally will account for his comfort and confidence as well. While you may want to concentrate on modifications to areas of the home he will spend the most time in, you eventually will want to make modifications in every area of the home, both inside and outside. Our home modification suggestions will get you started.

Bathroom Modifications

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in your home; the Centers for Disease Control reports that nearly a quarter million people ages 15 and older go to the emergency room for a bathroom-related injury. That’s why the bathroom is one of the first places you should concentrate on when modifying your home to ensure the safety of a person with a visual impairment.

One of the first things you can do to improve safety in your bathroom is install adequate lighting. Make sure that you have lights directly above the sink or on either side of the vanity in addition to a light in the shower stall or bathtub. It’s also important to plug in a nightlight so that there always is some light in the bathroom at night.

Because the risk of slips and falls increases on wet bathroom floors and slippery shower and bathtub floors, you need to take steps to help your loved one get better traction while using the bathroom. Unfortunately, area rugs can increase the risk of falls in a bathroom, so make sure that you choose rugs that have non-slip backings on them. Avoid plush rugs that can pose a tripping hazard. You also should line the floor of the shower or bathtub with a non-slip mat.

Designate an area for razors, tweezers, nail scissors, sharp fingernail files, and fingernail clippers. All of these sharp grooming tools should be kept in the same place at all times so that your visually-impaired loved one can locate them quickly and easily without worrying about getting cut. All family members should be sure to return items to the designated area when they finish using them.

Kitchen Modifications

The kitchen is another dangerous area of the home. Hot and sharp objects pose risks to everyone, but they certainly are riskier for people with visual impairments. Of course, the goal is to help your loved one feel confident while using the kitchen.

One of the first steps you should take is labeling your cabinets and drawers until the person becomes accustomed to where items are located. You don’t have to use printed labels; something as simple as a cabinet door with a patch of Velcro or a drawer handle with a ribbon can guide a person with a visual impairment to the correct place in the kitchen. It’s also important to label food items with large print, braille labels, or tactile marks. Focus on packages and containers that are a similar size and shape when labeling food; for example, you probably don’t need to label the bear-shaped container of honey.

When labeling storage locations and food items themselves, work with your loved one to see which system of organization he would prefer. He may want all the spices located on a top shelf next to the stove because he cooks with them frequently. Or, he may want all the cans of soup moved from the pantry to a cabinet near the stove because he likes to have soup for lunch every day.

Then, decide where to store kitchen utensils, cookware, and dinnerware. It’s a good idea to keep heavy items on lower shelves to avoid accidents. It’s also better to keep knives and other sharp kitchen tools in one location at all times. Purchase guards or sheaths for your graters, knives, slicers, food processor blades, etc. And, develop a system for dirty utensils so that no one in the family places used sharp items in a sink full of soapy water and increases the risk of someone getting cut.

Once you have made accommodations to priority living spaces to ensure the safety and confidence of your loved one with a visual impairment, continue through the rest of your home. Stairways, your loved one’s bedroom, and other areas that are used frequently should take priority but it’s important to prioritize areas that can pose significant danger, such as a swimming pool. Be sure to go over the entire property and look for any potential problem areas and find appropriate solutions.

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