Be proactive to make sure seniors are safe at home

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Home should be a place of comfort and safety. However, as time passes, those familiar surroundings might pose safety concerns for elderly people.

Due to increasing age, older adults see and hear less clearly, their balance is less steady, and their reaction times are slower. Household and personal tasks that were once safe and easy to complete can become difficult and even dangerous.

This might be a good time to look around your loved one's home for potential safety hazards. Being proactive might prevent an injury or accident from occurring in the home.

Your elderly loved one might be reluctant to bring household problems to your attention due to concerns about costs, a desire to maintain personal independence, or simply not wanting to make extra work for you.

If you are caring for elderly loved ones at home, here is a checklist of some actions you can take to help keep the home environment safe.

  • Look in and around the home for possible fall risks. Stairways, both inside and out, should have sturdy railings securely fixed to the wall.
  • Ensure that all entrances, hallways and stairs have good lighting. Diminished vision combined with poor lighting increases the likelihood of falls. Add nightlights in and around the bathroom.
  • Make sure that appliances, electrical devices and outlets are in good working order. If necessary, make repairs and replacements.
  • Turn down the thermostat on the water heater. Older adults can accidentally be scalded due to decreased sensitivity to hot water. Set the water temperature at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Have emergency numbers on the senior's speed dial. In addition to 911 for emergencies, add the home, cell and work phones for you and other family caregivers. Also include phone numbers for the pharmacy, poison control, and a trusted neighbor who lives nearby.
  • Make sure the smoke alarms work. You should change the batteries at least once yearly, but the alarms should be tested monthly.
  • Keep essentials by the bedside and other locations where they are visible and readily accessible. A touch-activated lamp might be useful. Eyeglasses, hearing aids and a phone should be within arm's reach.
  • Improve safety in the bathroom. You can help protect your elderly loved ones from falls by making the bathroom environment safer. Some suggestions are to install grab bars near the toilet and bathtub area and to use a non-slip mat, shower chair, and-or a handheld shower.

A safe home environment can allow you and your elderly loved ones to live the best life possible.

James Wogsland, MBA and Certified Senior Advisor, is co-owner of ComForCare Home Care, and chairman of the Beaufort County Walk to End Alzheimer's. JWogsland@ComForCare.com; www.HiltonHead.ComForCare.com

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