Last Updated: June 20, 2018
Studies show that older adults want to stay in their homes for as long as possible as they age. While it is important for seniors to remain in familiar surroundings like the comfort of their own home, is it always safe?
How to Keep Your Senior Loved One Safe at Home
Safety is one of the top concerns caregivers have about their senior loved ones. Read the following 10 tips about how to keep your senior parent safe at home during this time:
1. Assist With Mobility
It’s important to make it easy for your senior loved one to move around the home. A bench at the front door is extremely helpful for seniors to sit while placing bags when they come in from outside or to put on winter boots. A tall counter stool is also a great addition to the kitchen. It can allow a senior to remain independent, possibly cooking while sitting down (which is great for seniors who can’t stand for long periods of time). Proper footwear is also incredibly important. Encourage your loved one to wear well-fitting shoes with low heels and sturdy soles.
2. Consider the Bathroom
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom and almost 14% are hospitalized. More than a third of the injuries happen while bathing or showering, while approximately 14% occur while using the toilet. Seniors in particular are vulnerable to injury near the toilet, as over half of the injuries sustained by people over the age of 85 occur in this area of the bathroom. Consider making the bathroom more accessible and safe by:
- Installing grab bars inside and outside of the shower/stall and on either side of the toilet
- Lay non-slip rubber mats in high-slip areas, such as in front of the sink and both inside and outside of the shower
- Placing a stool or other area to sit during grooming routines
- Retrofitting the current bathtub area with a walk-in tub or shower. The Safe Step Walk-in Tub Company offers walk-in tub and shower systems complete with a foldable chair, flexible shower wand, an ultra-low step-up and other senior-friendly features
3. Consider the Outdoors
Many senior falls take place outside of the home, so ensuring your driveway, entrance, porch and sidewalk are free of hazards is just as important as making the inside of your home hazard free.
Unstable cracks in the sidewalk leading to and from your home should be repaired seasonally and walkways should be clear of snow. Wood covered decks and porches can be especially slippery in wet weather conditions, so consider laying a rubber mat or adhering anti-slip grips to the base of your porch.
4. Easy Access to Doors and Windows for Seniors With Arthritis
If the senior you’re caring for has arthritis, then turning doorknobs and opening windows may be difficult. Consider the hardware you choose for these areas of your home — a lever-style door handle may be easier to use than a round one.
5. Encourage Exercise
Harvard Health Publishing suggests that seniors practice simple exercises to improve balance and coordination, reduce falls and strengthen supporting muscles. Consider the following activities:
- Climbing stairs
- Tai Chi
- Weight training with hand weights or a machine
6. Let There Be Light
Seniors who have a hard time seeing are at an increased risk of accidents. Ensure areas around entryways, hallways and stairs are well lit, and add brighter or extra lights if needed. You can also install glow-in-the-dark light switches or motion-sensor lighting throughout your home, so seniors don’t need to struggle to find the light switch in the dark.
7. Make It Easy to Call for Help
No matter how many modifications you make to your home, you can never prevent the unexpected. If a senior has an emergency, getting immediate help can be the difference between life and death.
Consider using a call-assist service or personal emergency response system which the senior can wear on their neck or wrist and push a button should they need help. If you don’t have such a service in your area then make sure your loved one carries a cell phone on them, or at the very least, that there is a phone within arms reach of the areas that your senior spends most of their time.
8. Remove Hazards
Remove slipping and tripping hazards that can get caught underfoot and cause your senior loved on to fall. Area rugs have a tendency to bunch up or can curl at the corners, causing a significant hazard. Clutter, pets, extension cords and steps that are too steep, are other major tripping hazards found in many homes. If you have small children, keep the ground as toy-free as possible or establish a senior-free toy zone.
9. Restrict Access to Doors, Windows and Dangerous Zones for Seniors With Dementia
On the other hand, if the senior you’re caring for has dementia or another type of cognitive impairment, then it will be critical to limit access to the outdoors (in case they wander) as well as to dangerous household items like chemicals, household cleaners (like bleach), medicines and other items that could accidentally be swallowed. Child-locks and other child-proofing products work well for this purpose.
10. Use At-Home Safety Devices
There are a number of products out there that are designed to keep seniors safe. For example, ImpactActive Hip Protectors are designed to protect a senior’s hips, should they fall. This comfortable underwear comes in a number of designs for men and women and will shield the hips from fracturing during a fall.
Other types of at-home safety devices for seniors include:
- Health and activity monitors: Jawbone
- Home monitoring systems: BeClose
- Pill dispensers: Monitored
- Safety and location tracking devices: Pocketfinder GPS
- Security poles and mobility assistance rails: Stander Security Pole
- TV monitoring systems: GrandCare Systems
While these suggestions can extend the time a senior can stay in their home safely, in some cases the care needed will exceed what a family caregiver can provide.
In this case, it’s important to consider alternative options like an assisted living community to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.
What other products or tips have helped you keep your loved one safe at home? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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