Especially for seniors, one’s home should be a place of comfort and safety. However, as they age, those familiar surroundings might pose safety concerns for elderly people.
Older adults see and hear less clearly, their balance is less steady, and their reaction times are slower. Certain 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. You might need to approach carefully to avoid these issues.
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 and should be clear of debris. Make sure that all railings are securely fixed to the wall. Check any small rugs to make sure they don’t slip and slide.
- 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 fire, police and other 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. Label every number clearly with large letters so that a distressed senior can locate the right number quickly in an emergency.
- Make sure the smoke alarms work. You should change the batteries at least twice yearly, but the alarms should be tested monthly. Press the test button to see if the alarm is in working order.
- Keep essentials by the bedside. This is a good idea especially for those who are having memory issues. A touch-activated lamp might be useful. Eyeglasses, hearing aids and a phone should be within arm’s reach.
- Improve safety in the bathroom. Some suggestions to implement are to install grab bars near the toilet and bathtub area and to use a non-slip mat, shower chair and a handheld shower.
A safe home environment can allow you and your elderly loved ones to live your best life possible.
James Wogsland, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of ComForCare Home Care. JWogsland@ComForCare.com; www.HiltonHead.ComForCare.com