I have worked in various health care facilities and realms of health care since 2002. The most challenging by far has been the arena of home health.

As a physical therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with numerous patients, family members and health care providers, and one question is consistently brought forward: “What can we do in the patients’ homes to maximize their safety and independence, and help them age in place?”

Research shows that about 83 percent of older Americans want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. Other studies show that most of these homes aren’t equipped for or designed to accommodate the aging elder’s needs.

Working in patients’ homes, you have to be creative and use all of the resources and interventions around you, as Mainers and most elderly are on fixed incomes with budgets, making the expense of the modifications burdensome to them and their families.

I’ve chosen to write about five fairly inexpensive items, or gadgets as you will, that can help lengthen a person’s ability to stay in their home, decrease their fall risk and improve their quality of life:

Rope lighting: Lighting plays an important part in decreasing fall risk in an elder’s home. There are various types of lighting available on the market. Rope lights are fairly inexpensive and can be taped down or stapled to rugs, walls and baseboards. This can help elders not only escape in case of an emergency in the middle of the night but assist when older homes do not have outlets in the hallways, making installing night lights in those hallways difficult.

With rope lighting, you can plug in the lights in one room of the house, but it can provide lighting throughout the home where needed. For our elders with Alzheimer’s or dementia, natural lighting versus fluorescent lighting works best to decrease anxiety or an increase in behaviors.

There are also touch lights and standard night lights you can purchase at the Dollar Store that are battery operated that can be installed using double-sized tape or Command Hooks and installed where needed.

Dexcom G4 Platinum System for continuous glucose monitoring: Another leading cause of hospitalizations in elders is poorly controlled Diabetes Mellitus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million people are diabetic, a majority of them are diagnosed, and the rest are undiagnosed. Glucose monitoring is essential in controlling diabetes.

If seniors are having difficulty controlling their diabetes, it can increase fall risk and increase their likelihood of having to be placed in an assisted living facility or hospital. Dexcom is a company that has a product called Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring. This is a new product on the market for family members of diabetics and diabetic patients. It allows them the capability for bluetooth and wireless glucose monitoring. The diabetic patient’s spouse, grandparent or loved one can remotely view the patient’s glucose levels and other trends and data, all on an iPod or iPhone.

Fitbit: Everyone knows that the more active you are, the stronger you stay, which decreases fall risk. The Fitbit can track multiple things throughout your day — including activity level, heart rate, exercise, food, weight and sleep. Not only do I find this helpful for our elders, but it can also provide valuable information for their primary care physicians and family members. It allows them to track how much activity and mobility is going on in a person’s life.

This can be tracked on a computer and can also be set up for wireless monitoring on a phone. It sends notifications when goals are met and can be very motivating for patients and families to increase activity level and nutritional intake. Prices range from $59.95 for the pocket-sized “Zip,” which only tracks distance walked and calories burned, to the advanced “Surge” bracelet for $249.95, which includes a GPS tracker and can monitor heart rate.

Auto HandyBar Car Transfer Aid: As we age, it usually gets harder to get up and go, especially from seats low to the ground. There are multiple devices on the market that can help. One of the neatest transfer assist devices I’ve seen is the Auto HandyBar Car Transfer Aid.

Again, there are various versions of this particular device. Some include a car caddy for organization of items for the car; others provide a different type of handle. This device can be easily attached to virtually any car door to provide a steady and easily accessible place for hand placement during car transfers.

Colored electrical tape: There are many wonderful and creative things you can do with a little bit of colored electrical tape. Colored electrical tape is multi-purpose, inexpensive and easily removed without damaging surfaces.

Brightly colored electrical tape can be placed on microwaves and oven buttons to highlight the most used buttons for people with visual deficits. It can be wrapped around grab bars in shower stalls to decrease the monotony of an all white bathroom set up. It can also be placed on thresholds from one room to another and placed on stairs to alert people of the last step.  All of this for a next-to-nothing price.

In summary, these five gadgets are just some of the items out there on the market today to help our neighbors age in place, decrease fall risk and remain active members of our communities. I hope this has helped enlighten readers and given some helpful hints for assisting people in either managing in their own homes or assist in managing someone they love.

Tatum Cyr is a rehab manager at Gentiva Home Health Services in Sanford. She will present at the 10th annual University of Maine Geriatrics Colloquium on Thursday, May 14, at Wells Conference Center. Register by Wednesday, May 6, by clicking here.