In today’s world, seniors desire to “age in place.” By staying in their homes longer, seniors are able to maintain a strong sense of independence and happiness. This is turn improves their health and reduces hospitalizations. The challenge is that many homes are not designed with the elderly in mind and may not be conducive to someone with vision, hearing, or sensation issues living there.
Falls are the number one safety hazard for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 older adults fall each year. Fewer than half of these seniors talk to their healthcare provider about it. Once an elderly person has had one fall, it’s a strong predictor of falls in the future. Falls can break bones and cause internal injuries so they need to prevented as much as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to keep older people safe in their homes. Pay attention to home safety, home organization, and healthy lifestyle.
An elderly person is just as apt to fall at home as they are in a strange place. Knowing one’s way around the floor plan does not necessarily prevent falls; making changes in the home can.
- Add lights to stairwells and dark corners.
- Eliminate shadows as much as possible to improve wayfinding
- Place a nightlight in the bathroom
- Install grab-bars in the bathroom; in the shower and by the toilet
A few changes by a geriatric care manager in the way the home is organized can do a world of good. In the kitchen, it’s recommended to keep the most commonly used items between shoulder and knee height. This helps prevent a senior from stretching or bending too far. Think about everything from where the cereal and fruit is kept to the placement of the toaster and microwave oven. It’s a lot easier and safer, to use hot, and/or heavy items when they are at a manageable height and distance.
Seniors should have their vision checked regularly and be aware of any side effects from the medications they take. Older people who take four or more prescription medications are more likely to fall from side effects or drug interactions. Exercise of almost any kind will improve strength and flexibility to help prevent falls. Walking, light weight training, and yoga all improve balance and muscle tone.
Safety in a senior’s home cannot be overstated. Seniors can be set in their ways and may not want to change. They may resent someone like a geriatric care manager coming into their home to make adjustments for safety. It is important to engage the senior in creating a safe environment so they won’t undo what has been done and they will understand the importance of staying safe and preventing falls.