How To Make Your Home Safer for Seniorsadmin
Senior citizens often resist the idea of moving into a skilled nursing facility, and it’s easy to understand why. Even as the aging process affects their physical and mental capabilities over time, they may still be able to handle everyday tasks for years to come. However, seniors do face increased risks at home. Fortunately, if your loved one wants to continue living alone or with you, there are extra steps you can take to maximize their household safety and avoid preventable injuries or accidents.
To help seniors retain their independence, there are several strategies you can use to help “seniorize” their home. The following safety measures will help you minimize common risks and set up a household that is comfortable, efficient, and equipped to accommodate their changing safety needs.
Communicate with Neighbors
Who lives nearby, and how well do they know your loved one? Form connections with your neighbors if you haven’t already. Extra pairs of eyes are always helpful, especially if your loved one will be home alone for the majority of each day. Make sure every neighbor has your contact information, and lean on this local support network for help when necessary.
If neighbors are alert and observant, your loved one is never completely alone. Nearby residents and frequent visitors will notice unusual changes in their daily routine or demeanor, and they can alert you if something is amiss when you’re away. They may even step in as caregiver for an hour or a day.
Control Indoor Clutter
As mobility and memory deteriorate, so does the ability to stay organized. In fact, piled-up mail and unpaid bills are red flags that suggest seniors may need extra help. Clutter is also a fire hazard that increases the risk of falling, so it’s important to make organization as easy as possible.
Because clutter is psychologically overwhelming and physically dangerous, make an effort to control clutter around the house. Designate a space for important mail, remove pieces of furniture and other objects that block pathways through rooms, and sit down with your loved one to sort through overflowing drawers and boxes.
Fall-Proof the Bathroom & Other Rooms
A single fall can be deadly for people older than 65. Broken hips and head injuries are among the devastating consequences of falling at home, but simple safety precautions will help make injuries less likely. To minimize falling risks throughout your home, clear pathways by removing rugs and raised thresholds, moving furniture to the side, and wiping up any spills immediately.
Of course, your bathroom is a hotbed of wet, slippery surfaces, so it’s important to pay extra attention to your bathroom safety features. Lay down a non-skid bath mat, and install grab bars or handles on the walls near the toilet, tub, and sink. You may also place a chair inside the shower and coach your loved one to get in and out carefully, leading with their strongest leg or arm.
Make Use of Lists
Good organization skills are your best defense against memory lapses and exhaustion. Use handwritten or typed lists to condense the most important information you know about your loved one’s needs. Checklists help your loved one remember basic but important details, while to-do lists and contact lists help you and other potential caregivers keep track of all their special needs.
Keep complete lists of the following:
- Contacts: List the names and phone numbers of family members, friends, neighbors, health care professionals, insurance agents, lawyers, financial advisors, and other important people
- Daily tasks: An aging senior may need a “to do” list to remember all the basic, everyday tasks that need to be completed, from brushing their teeth to checking the mail and eating lunch.
- Medications: List the nutritional supplements, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications they need to take, along with dosage and frequency of each.
Make an Emergency Plan
Are you ready for the worst? If a sudden fire, crime, or natural disaster hits your home, elderly residents may not have the senses and reflexes they need to evacuate to safety. Help them out by keeping pathways clear and illuminated with night lights, LED strips, or even glow-in-the-dark tape. Check your fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and any security monitors regularly.
You may also need a disaster supply kit in case your loved one gets trapped at home, with or without you. A week’s worth of medication, water, and non-perishable food should be easily accessible, along with a can opener, some cash, a cell phone and charger, and basic medical and hygiene supplies. If your loved one cannot leave (or return) home for an unexpected period of time, you don’t want them to be completely helpless.
Know The Red Flags
Seniors living alone can be safe; you just have to know which safety hazards to avoid and which risks to anticipate. Remember to be realistic about your loved one’s ability to take care of themselves, too. If you notice declines in their concentration, hygiene, or coordination skills, they may need an evaluation from a health care professional. As long as you don’t ignore red flags, you can “seniorize” your living space with simple adjustments that give your parent or loved one the gift of continued independence.