Home safety is important for aging family members. For many older Americans, falls in the home are a serious risk for devastating injuries.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans according to The Center for Disease Control. 29 million older Americans fell in 2014, of which 2.8 million were treated in emergency rooms.
In other words, then it is imperative to take the precautions to ensure the home is safe for seniors.
Begin in the bathroom
Arguably the most dangerous room in the house is the bathroom. The floors are usually tile, and when an individual takes a shower or bath they moisture becomes a slipping hazard. It is also the one room someone might wake up to go to in the middle of the night.
- Can you get in and out of the tub easily?
- Is the surface of the tub slippery?
- Are there nearby railings for support?
- Is the toilet too low to the ground making it hard to get up and down?
- Can you easily reach the light switch?
If any of these questions raise concerns, then it’s time to do a little home safety work in the bathroom to make it safer.
Consider installing grab bars near the shower and toilet. If there isn’t anything to hold onto, then many elders will reach for a towel bar, which isn’t sturdy enough to support much weight. Tension poles can also provide extra balance and support.
Use a shower chair for stability while trying to bathe rather than standing for long periods of time.
Don’t hold back on the placement of non-slip mats and adhesive strips to keep rugs in place and add extra traction in the shower.
Purchase a new toilet, and make sure all of the toiletries are within reach to prevent having to bend down for anything.
It doesn’t hurt to also install a telephone in the bathroom to call in emergencies.
Look for home safety hazards in the kitchen
The kitchen probably has tile much like the bathroom, which means investing in rugs with non-slip mats underneath is probably a good idea. There are several things to consider when making this room of the house safer.
- Install bright lighting.
- If the cabinet is out of reach, don’t use it for daily items. It’s best to not need step stools.
- Replace glass cups and bowls with plastic. If an accident happens, no one is bending over to sweep up broken glass.
- Check and fix any water leaks to prevent moisture on the floor.
- Store heavy items at waist level.
Falling isn’t the only hazard to consider in the kitchen. You also need to consider fire safety and food safety.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, individuals over 65 have a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire. It might be the result of the slower response times or inability to make the right decision fast enough because of medications or diminished mental facility because of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Making small adjustments like turning handles inward to prevent spills or just buying the pots and pans with two handles for more stability.
Clear the clutter off the counters to reduce the chance for easily flammable items to catch on fire.
Make a safety plan and practice. Consider investing in a small fire extinguisher for the kitchen and teach your loved one how to use it correctly. Also, check the fire detector in the kitchen to ensure it works properly.
Finally, always put the date the food was made on the container it is stored in to prevent any food poisoning.
Make the stairs safer
The beautiful staircase was once one of the best features of the home, but now you or your older loved one sees them as a daily mountain (almost literally).
There are a few ways to make them a little easier to climb every day.
- Make sure the railings are secure and sturdy to support significant body weight.
- Put LED lights underneath each step to provide better visibility.
- Clean up any tripping hazards (e.g. toys left by the grandkids).
- If possible, keep all the necessities downstairs.
- Determine if it is time for a stair lift.
Don’t forget the bedroom
Tripping hazards in the bedroom is easy to overlook, but thankfully, simple to correct. Some more expensive modifications to increase home safety is an adjustable bed to make entry and exit easier, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few handrails too. There are many easier changes to make today.
- Make sure the nightstand can handle some body weight for any assistance getting in or out of the bed.
- Use non-slip carpet pads to prevent any falls because of a buckled rug.
- Put a sturdy chair in the room for getting dressed.
- Install a nightlight to prevent stumbling in the darken route to the bathroom.
- Pick up any unnecessary clutter.
- Put rails near the bed.
- Consider clapping lights so you can turn them on or off without getting up.
Examine everywhere else in the home
After checking the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom in the house for potential problems to fix, then you are left with everywhere else like the hallways and living room.
- Check the floors for any unnecessary clutter.
- Look for any wires from extension cords or telephone cords and secure them against the baseboards,
- Make sure every rug has non-slip mats underneath.
Other ways to ensure home safety is to keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone to call in case of an emergency. Consider wearing an alarm device to notify a loved one if you fall or are injured. Also, take special precautions during the winter months.
Do you or your loved one need help with everyday activities after facing a terminal diagnosis? Our compassionate team can help reduce stress and work to keep your loved one comfortable. Contact McCortney Hospice with any questions you might have concerning hospice care for your loved one. 405.360.2400.