Many seniors do not wish to relocate to a supervised living environment and want to remain at home. Aging in place is a good idea for many and can even be more cost-effective, but caregivers need to make sure that the home environment is safe for any medical or age-related conditions that the senior may have.
Below please find some tips for ensuring your elder’s home is a safe and comfortable environment.
Falls are the most common cause of injury amongst the elderly and a significant fall can lead to fracture which may carry health risks including an increased risk of death. Failing eyesight, loss of balance, limited mobility, and osteoporosis contribute to the increased likelihood of fall and increased medical risk of falls. Employing methods to prevent falls should be a priority for caregivers of seniors.
Hallways and walkways are a big concern in fall risk. Ensure that potential hazards are addressed such as:
- Remove throw rugs, floor clutter, electrical cords, and furniture that block pathways
- Lower thresholds in doorways and room junctions so that tripping hazard is reduced
- Use only non-skid floor cleaner
- Repair damage to carpet or other flooring
- Use rubber caps on walkers, canes and crutches and clean tips regularly
- Install hand rails on stairways or long hallways
- Ensure nightlights are provided in dark areas
- Quickly mop up spills
- Ensure that any outside areas that become slippery are treated with salt or sand
Bathrooms are a common place for falls but you can help prevent them by:
- Installing grab handles around toilet and in tub / shower area
- Covering slick linoleum with carpet
- Applying rubberized, non-slip patches to bathtub and shower floor
- Encouraging the use of a shower chair or bath bench
Medication errors are a common cause of medical problems in the elderly and most elderly patients have multiple prescription medications that must be taken accurately. Be sure to coordinate with all of the senior’s doctors to ensure medications work properly and effectively together.
Consider counting out medication for the elder, as they may have trouble with this task. Caregivers should pay careful attention to instructions for prescription medications and ensure that medicine is taken reliably every day as prescribed.
General Household Practices
General safety practices may have fallen into disuse as the elder has aged. Caregivers should ensure that the environment meets basic safety standards such as:
- Smoke detectors should be located on every floor and outside of each bedroom
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in appropriate locations if gas or wood is used to heat or cook
- The kitchen should have a fire extinguisher and all hot-water pipes should be insulated
- The home should be well-lit including stairways, hallways, and outside areas
- Clear escape routes in case of fire or other emergency should be considered with an eye to the senior’s mobility issues
Seniors may experience difficulty with previously “easy” tasks and may be tempted to try to do more than they can, resulting in injury. Simple changes may increase safety in the home.
- Relocating frequently needed items to lower shelves so the senior does not have to reach as far
- Employing the use of “reacher” devices to limit the need to climb for items stored in overhead areas
- Ensuring that stepstool use is limited and that when stools are used they are in good condition, sturdy and have handrails
- Obtaining a “large number” phone so that numbers can be easily seen
- Encourage the senior to limit the items that he carries at one time to avoid falls
- Encourage the wearing of non-skid shoes or slippers rather than bare feet or socks
Most changes that need to be made to ensure that the home is senior-friendly are not expensive or complex. Some require minor modifications that can be done by anyone who is handy with a few tools but in most cases, attention is the biggest factor.