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Tips for Making a Home Safer for Senior Citizens

Tips for Making a Home Safer for Senior Citizens

Safety of our seniors is an area that is critical if we are to ensure they are safe in their own homes. So, what should you as a family care giver look for specifically?

Safety of our seniors is an area that is critical if we are to ensure they are safe in their own homes. So, what should you as a family care giver look for specifically?

Here are some tips that you can easily follow

  • Make sure that the bathroom is safe.
    The bathroom can be the riskiest room in a senior’s home. Falls and scalding often occur here. To ensure your loved one’s safety, make sure that you address the following issues:
    • Install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet.
    • Set the thermostat on the water heater no higher than 60° C to prevent accidental burns.
    • Put rubber mats in the bathtub to prevent slipping.
    • Consider replacing the original bathtub with a walk-in model instead.
    • Place a special bathing chair in the tub. Your best choice for a bathing chair is one that will also fit in the shower.
    • Install a hand-held showerhead. These can be easier to use, especially when cleaning hard-to-reach places.
    • Replace the original toilet seat with a raised toilet seat with handlebars. Toilets should be between 40 and 50cm in height. Seniors will find it easier to sit and stand.
    • Remove the bathroom mirror. If mom or dad is showing early signs of dementia, seeing an unfamiliar face looking back at them may be startling.
    • Install a nightlight in the bathroom. This will help seniors who may make repeated trips to the bathroom overnight. Install a nightlight or two on the route to the bathroom as well so that seniors can find their way.
  • Protect against fire.
    Home safety for seniors also includes removing fire hazards from within the home.
    • Change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly (after seasonal time changes).
    • Check the electric cords of all appliances and lamps in your loved one’s home. Replace any frayed or damaged cords and limit the number of cords plugged into power strips.
    • Remove candles from the home. If left burning and unattended, candles can start a fire.
    • Remind seniors to stay low when exiting the home in a fire. This reduces the chance of smoke inhalation. Coach seniors on how to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes ignite.
    • Discourage the use of space heaters. If your loved one insists on using one, place it at least three feet away from curtains, bedding, or furniture. Remind your loved one to turn off the space heater before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Keep emergency numbers handy.
    Does your loved one own a cell phone?
    Can they use a cell phone to make a call - is there any difficulty?

    Modern cell phones have many extra bells and whistles currently. Those can be quite confusing for a senior person. Consider a more basic model. Look for a cell phone with larger keypad numbers and a display window. These will be easier to press and see. You can also set up a “call display” feature on a telephone. Mom or Dad can immediately recognize an incoming call as either from a family member or a stranger.

    Aging brains can’t always remember emergency information. Make it easy for your loved one to call for help by posting a note in large letters by every phone and on the back of their cell phone.

    Make sure to list the following:
    o 112 - Emergency
    o Emergency contacts (family members and friends)
    o Other numbers that you believe may be important

  • Removing fall hazards.
    Falls are the leading cause of injury for seniors. To reduce fall risk and encourage home safety for seniors, one of the most important things to do is to make the home fall-safe.

    You can achieve this by doing the following:
    • Remove throw rugs. These may be decorative but often lack a rubberised backing to better grip the floor.
    • Clean up piled clutter. This includes newspapers, loose clothes, and shoes.
    • Discard old furniture if damaged, if its still in good condition you could donate it.
    • Create a more open environment. This will be easier to do if Mom or Dad is still walking rather than using a wheelchair or walker. In the latter case, doorways should be at least 32” across to allow for access. Consider any tight corners before or after a doorway. These may restrict access and make manoeuvrability impossible.
    • Avoid stretching extension cords across the floor.
    • Make sure that your loved one wears non-slip footwear when inside.

  • Assess the bedroom.
    You may not think that danger can lurk in a senior’s bedroom, but think again! Seniors can encounter several potential risks here. Do the following to make the bedroom safe for your loved one:
    • Replace a sagging, softer mattress with a firmer one. This will be far more comfortable, provide more support, and not trap a resting senior.
    • Fit the bedroom with a telescoping grab bar that extends between the floor and ceiling – enabling them to have something to grab when getting in or out of bed.
    • Replace the round bedroom doorknob with a single-lever instead. A senior can easily push this lever down to open the door. While you’re at it, replace all other round doorknobs in the senior’s home as well.

  • Check lighting.
    Aging eyes don’t always work as they once did. Seniors may misjudge or completely avoid darkened areas in their home.
    • Replace any burnt-out light bulbs.
    • Install new light fixtures.
    • Install motion detection lighting inside and outside the home.
    • Test all lighting by standing in one corner of a room and looking across the room. Can you see a clear path? If not, brighten things up with more lights.

  • Check the kitchen.
    The kitchen is often the heart of a home. Therefore, it seems only fitting that family caregivers should spend considerable time making this room safer for a senior.
    • Pull down any stored items from higher heights. Gauge these items for usage. Are they still working? How often are they used? If they work and are still used frequently, store these items at lower levels.
    • Is reaching for items required? If so, provide Mom or Dad with a stepstool. Look for a stool no more than one or two steps in height.
    • Provide rubberized water faucet covers for the kitchen sink. These can be easier to grip and turn and are color-coded: red for hot and blue for cold. Family caregivers can often find these products at a senior’s supply store.
    • Replace standard “twist and turn” kitchen water faucet handles with “single-lever” handles instead. Seniors can find these far easier to use.
    • Open the refrigerator. Wipe it clean and discard any stored foods passed their “best before” date. Do the same thing with pantry cupboards. When grocery-shopping for mom or dad, family caregivers should think about smaller portions and nutrition. Seniors, after all, may eat less, eat less often, or forget to eat entirely.

  • Are there stairs in the home? Things to evaluate.
    Often outside stairs pose a problem for seniors as they may be loosing their strength and flexibility.
    • Look into stairlifts. Stairlifts can be custom fitted inside or outside the senior’s home.
    • Test stair railings. You don’t have to be a home handyman to do this. Grab the railing and try to shake it back and forth. If the railing wiggles (even somewhat), it’s time to fix it. Tighten all nuts and bolts or replace the railing.
    • Differentiate between stair steps. With partial vision, a senior may be unable to separate one step from the next. To increase home safety for seniors, family caregivers can paint stair tops a contrasting colour. Stretching a piece of different-colour duct tape over the top of each step can also make each step easier to spot.

  • Ensuring they remain safe in the home.
    Review common sense safety measures with your loved one. It can be tempting to open the door to someone who “looks nice” but beware. Here are some other things to do and to remind your senior about:
    • Install a peephole in your senior’s front door.
    • Do not open the door to strangers when home alone. Place a reminder note on the wall beside the front door saying, “Do you know this person? If not, do not open the door."
    • Always keep windows and doors locked.
    • Do not agree to any telephone offers. Do not believe a caller’s claims that a family member is in danger. Do not share your financial information or your Identification Number over the phone. If someone is in true danger, a police officer will come to visit you.
    • Alert your loved one about ongoing scams targeting seniors.

  • And as a final word - Check in with them – frequently.
    Home safety for seniors means checking in with your loved one. You, as well as their neighbours, or even a professional caregiver can help to make sure they are safe.
    • Do you live in the same town or city as your aging parent? Drop in unannounced to get a better idea of how your parents are truthfully doing.
    • Monitor a senior in extreme hot or cold weather (when the risk of heat stroke or frostbite is higher).
    • Remind a senior to move more slowly from one room to the next – there is often no reason to rush.
    • Recommend your senior to call you for help before trying to tackle a cleaning or repair job independently.

 

 

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