Preparing your Home for Family Gatherings

Is your home the place where the family gathers for the holidays? If this is the case, you are probably making lists of all the things that have to be done. Something you might want to add to the list is to think about the accessibility of your home for certain guests. Here are a few tips for some common situations.

There are a few simple things to make it a bit easier for guests that may need a device to aid in walking, such as a cane or a walker. Try to remove uneven surfaces such as rugs, as these can be a trip hazard. Make sure the areas guests will be walking to are as wide as they can be. Try and remove any unnecessary items from the floors in these pathways that may make the area narrower. You might even consider removing a chair or a coffee table to make sure there is enough room for them to navigate. If a guest uses a wheelchair a good rule of thumb is to try to have a five-foot turning space and about 36 inches for walkways.

If you have stairs at your home, make sure that your railings are secure and easy to grip. If a guest might have issues with the stairs, a cane with someone walking on the other side of them holding a gait belt is much safer than for them to try and climb the stairs alone or trying to carry a walker. If there are stairs on the outside entrance of your home, there are portable ramps are available for rent in some communities. For easier wheelchair access, a small threshold ramp can make a very smooth transition into your home.

For the guest that normally uses a lift chair to stand from a seated position, there are a couple of low-cost aids that can help them rise from a chair.  A standing loop or a lift assist could make a huge difference in the mobility within your home. Try to not grab anyone who may be frail by the arms and pulling. This action could cause a bone to shift out of joint and/or bruising.

Bathroom safety is key. If you have an older style toilet that is shorter, it can be hard for some to stand up from that lower position. Installing a temporary grab bar or even a raised toilet seat will aid your guest and help prevent any falls or mishaps.

With everyone gathering and catching up, understanding what is happening during these gatherings may not be as easy as it once was. Some are not able to clearly distinguish the conversations going on around them, causing confusion and frustration. Try and offer a quieter place to gather and talk so that they may be able to better hear and partake in the conversations.

The very best thing to do is to ask your guests or their caretakers on what would help make their time in your home comfortable for them.

Karen Hauck is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and the owner of Chippewa Valley Aging in Place, LLC. The Chippewa Valley Home Builder Association is a free resource available to all homeowners building or remodeling a home. For more information please call 715-835-2526 or email

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